Exploring the idea of university

3 July 2013

Throughout June, Compass program held its first Year 7 'Explore Uni' days with students from Fairfield, Bass and Kogarah High Schools. Across three days, more than 300 high schoolers were guided around the campus to meet with faculty and professional staff who invited the students into their different fields of work from caring for and curating rare book collections; training the body and mind using music; preserving historical antiquities to presiding over a moot court.

Some eager young people already know what they want to do - for example, study forensic biology after being inspired by the television series 'NCIS', join the police force, or be a fashion designer. For others, the concept of a career in the future is still a hazy blur, and how a university fits into this picture can be a total mystery. A visit to university can transform abstract notions of a future. The activities engage students so that when motivated to talk and think about university, they have a reference point and a personal experience to draw upon.

'Explore Uni' day aims to make university and higher education more familiar in the school culture. When classroom teachers and year advisors accompany students and participate with them in activities on campus, the distance between our geographical locations is lessened.

Research indicates that an ongoing program of events that connects students with a range of the realities of university study is an effective way to increase uptake of higher education. The Compass 'campus-connected' program engages students with university from Year 7 through to Year 12.

In 2013 we are enjoying the benefits of strengthened relationships with Faculties and departments across the University of Sydney. The Sydney Conservatorium of Music extended its participation from Year 3 Day to Year 7 Day with the 'World of Music Through Voice' workshop (with other social inclusion projects coming as part of the 2012 Widening Participation grants program). The combination of physical and mental challenges was the ideal fit for curious and energetic Year 7 students, who surprised themselves with the quality of the songs they sang in the Great Hall.

We are delighted to have new participation from the Fisher Library, whose Rare Books and Special Collections activity offered students the opportunity to see and touch 16th Century Latin manuscript and rare editions of the Koran. Ancient books and Year 7 kids- who would have guessed? Perhaps it was the animal hide parchment or the chance to show off their Arabic language skills that got their attention, but Julie Price's rare book activity is now competing with the traditionally popular fencing presented by Maestro Scherma, Angelo Santangelo of Sydney Uni Sport and Fitness - for best part of the day!

Another ingredient that makes a successful visit is the involvement of university students. Each school is greeted by a group of student ambassadors who escort the school students to activities and stay with them for lunch. This provides opportunity for the ambassadors to impart a little of their story and give a personal perspective of student life at university.

The University will welcome nine more Year 7 groups to the campus the end of the year. If your Faculty is not involved but you want to be, let us know! You can contact Events Coordinator Susan Parker for more information.