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Caroline Plumb - CEO of Fresh Minds and youngest woman on Management Today's '35 under 35' list

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Lower Sixth Encouraged to Consider Studying Abroad

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Old Boy Tom Whittaker returned to Bolton School today to share his experience of studying abroad with the Sixth Form boys. Tom was a Boys’ Division pupil from 1992 to 1999. He went on win a football scholarship at the University of Rio Grande in Ohio, where he obtained a Marketing degree followed by a Masters in Education.

Tom now works for the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada. He therefore has a wealth of experience with the US degree system, as well as knowledge of Canadian universities. However, he was keen to stress to the Year 12 boys that he was there to talk more generally about studying abroad.

He advised that his own experience living in a foreign country helped him to come out of his shell and opened his eyes to different ways of thinking. He also championed the more universal and varied style of degree. University courses in the US and Canada are four years long and allow more flexibility than their UK counterparts: all students must take a general programme before choosing to focus in on one area at the end of their second year. This gives a generally rounder education, and is good if students aren’t sure what direction to take. This was good news for the Sixth Formers – the majority confessed to being torn between two subjects they would like to study to degree level.

Another factor which appealed to the boys was the sports, with most of the boys interested in sporting scholarships. American and Canadian universities can offer professional-standard sports facilities and world-class coaching, and the possibility of competing nationally. However, Tom reminded the boys that real life isn’t like the movies: players must maintain a good academic record in order to continue to play for the varsity teams. Tom also stressed that there is something for everyone, regardless of ability, and there is recreational sport available for students who simply like to play.

He also reassured the boys that the fees are not a great deal higher than those in the UK. Although studying abroad would make them ineligible for student loans, there are both academic and sporting scholarships available. There is also plenty of opportunity to find work on- and off-campus, and American and Canadian universities actively support their students in finding employment to cover their living costs, without it adversely affecting their studies.

The boys were engaged and interested throughout. They bombarded Tom with questions at the end, from specifics about sports scholarships to queries about who they could expect to share a room with in student housing.

If they do go on to apply to American universities, they may join the ranks of Bolton School students already studying in the US alongside Tom. Year 13 pupil Teddy Pender received an offer in December of a swimming scholarship at Bates College, which he plans to accept after he receives his A-Level results. Once in the US, he will be just two hours away from his brother Paddy, who accepted a place at Harvard University over the summer. From the Girls’ Division, two girls who left the school in 2013 have plans to study abroad: Beth Coton is currently reading Psychology with a tennis scholarship at the University of Northern Colorado, and Rebecca Richards has recently received a place at Princeton University and will travel out to America in September 2014.

These are just the most recent crop of students who have gone on from Bolton School to study abroad – and it seems clear from the level of interest in Tom’s talk that there will be more to come in the future.

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Tom Whittaker with two of the Sixth Form boys hoping to win Water Polo scholarships in the US

Tom Whittaker with two of the Sixth Form boys hoping to win Water Polo scholarships in the US