Why Bias Begins Long Before University Applications

How much applicant information do you need to remove before university admissions lose all bias?

Trick question. There’s always some sort of bias.

Anything attempting to level the playing field is better than nothing, but inequalities cannot be removed as easily as removing a name, or grades, or an institution.

As with Deloitte’s decision to ignore which university applicants studied at, the removal of names from UCAS forms is positive, but there is more to consider.

As Vikki Boliver says in The Conversation:

“Admissions selectors will still see each applicant’s home address, the school they attended, what they have written about themselves in their personal statement and what their teacher has written about them in their reference. All of this may provide subliminal clues as to an applicant’s ethnic and social background. Where applicants are interviewed as part of the selection process, the scope for unconscious bias becomes wider still.”

Social background can make a huge difference to applications. Lauren Rivera, author of “Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs“, explains:

“Whether intentionally or not, elite parents expose their children to different experiences and styles of interacting that are useful for getting ahead in society.” – [SOURCE]

In exactly the areas where people are meant to stand out, some find it easier to do than others. Inequality starts early and may not even be deliberate. People want to do the best they can for their children with the resources they have access to.

Those with a disadvantaged upbringing in some way are less likely to succeed in using the systems in place to build an impressive personal statement. And if they do manage to attend their university of choice and graduate, there are further hurdles to cross in creating CVs and making job applications.

For example, extra-curricular activities are often dropped in favour of getting the academic work done. Rivera has studied this too and she believes there should be “less weight [given] to extracurricular activities” as they are “a huge source of class inequality whether it’s in university admissions or in interviews”.

Striving for a First gets in the way of making do with a 2:1 while building up other achievements and industry experience. Yet these differences are what employers differentiate on.

When it comes to making name- and qualification-blind decisions, it may appear over time that the same people as before are getting the university places and job offers.

The danger here is that some people may see this as proof that some people are naturally more accomplished than others. They will conclude that the cream really does rise to the top.

If a lack of change is apparent, that doesn’t mean these new approaches to university and job applications will have failed. But it will show that applications are not the original source of inequality. Bias begins long before university applications. There are many variables, which begin much earlier in life and can be difficult to overcome.

Top 20 Email Newsletters You Need To Know About

Top 20 Newsletters

Education, story-telling, and personal development.

These three things are roughly what I’m looking for in a good email newsletter.

I want to be entertained, to be challenged, to be informed, to be intrigued, and to be taken to places I may not have already gone to through my own curated feeds.

Does that sound like something you want in on too? Well, let me give you my current Top 20 email updates. In no particular order, here’s what I’m happy to see in my inbox:

1. Quartz Daily Brief

Since Quartz started this news update, it’s been the first thing I read each day. I don’t pay much attention to the news during the day, so this is the nearest I get to a briefing. And it’s fab.

The short weekend essay they send on Saturday is consistently winning too.

2. Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel

Productivity, education, and web links worth exploring every Sunday.

3. Oliver Quinlan’s Quinlearning

Oliver Quinlan recently introduced this newsletter after enjoying Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel. Similar in nature to Doug’s, but with different edulinks and recommendations for you, Oliver has started his newsletter off with a bang.

4. A Millennial Type

In Declan and Erica’s own words, “Empowering Millennials to LIVE, CREATE, PERSEVERE, and DREAM”. I can’t improve on that…they even use an Oxford comma. ;)

5. Almost Timely (@cspenn)

Full of links on social marketing, technology, society, and all sorts of other things.

Penn’s premium content adds a nice touch to proceedings, with actionable advice on how to be one step ahead of the rest. Just keep it to yourself, he urges!

6. Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan’s Sunday newsletter is a friendly kick up the bum to help support you as an owner, preceded by a comment on what he’s drinking. Be sure to tell him what tipple you’re enjoying.

7. Primility

Jerod Morris already does a great job co-hosting podcasts like The Showrunner and The Lede (check these out too!).

Jerod has recently started a Primility movement, for balancing pride and humility. His newsletter gives you a dose of inspiration to start each week, as well as a roundup of all the daily Primility shows you can listen to.

Wrist bump!

8. Educating Modern Learners

The EML newsletter showcases exclusive content and comment on education issues, as well as great edulinks elsewhere on the web. Some great thought pieces to explore.

9. Hack Education

One of the co-founders of EML, Audrey Watters, also has her own fantastic weekly update. Hack Education doesn’t focus on just the positive stuff and the hype, and that makes it a breath of fresh air. Yours in struggle.

10. On Tap Education News Digest

I mainly use this on days when I’m not checking my own curated news feeds. But if you don’t already have education news ‘on tap’, this is a great daily email for you.

Mainstream media links, government and other sources, plus international stories, all ready for you to click or tap on and be informed about.

11. Annie Murphy Paul: The Brilliant Report

I first encountered Annie Murphy Paul in 2010 when I read her book, “Origins: How the nine months before birth shape the rest of our lives“. Her newsletter has engaging content on learning, based on cognitive science, neuroscience, and psychology.

12. Further

Brian Clark of Copyblogger writes about personal development each week.

He features a big topic in every issue and includes other links on health, wealth and wisdom. It’s my favourite Brian Clark thing (closely followed by Unemployable).

13. Harvard Business Review Management Tip of the Day

HBR has lots of email alerts, including a daily roundup of all that day’s stories published on the site. But the Management Tip of the Day is useful for more than managers. As a student, you can also get a dose of useful advice on taking action, persuading others, and being your best self.

Sign up at: https://hbr.org/email-newsletters

14. James Clear

On how to improve performance and form habits, James Clear’s articles are incredibly popular (200k+ subscribers). Worth a read for a part-story, part-evidence-based, part self-help way to give you a physical and mental boost.

15. The One Thing

Each week, Iñaki Escudero says, “There are many things going on, these are a few of my favorite ones”.

A quirky, informative, and fun email. “The One Tradition I wish I had”, “The One Business lesson to learn from a 13 year old girl”, “The One Thing nobody can do”, “The One Chart to question our assumptions”…Lots of stuff that’ll stick with you.

16. No Sidebar

At work, at home, and in your soul…No Sidebar is an informative look at calming down your life so you can do more with less.

17. Storythings

A selection of stories from the week that you may not have read about. They helpfully tell you how long each piece should take to read.

18. The Daily Water Cooler

This is awesome if only for the two animated gifs you get each day. Coming from someone who doesn’t enjoy much about animated gifs, it’s high praise!

You’re also treated to links worth sharing, as well as a (US-centric) look at news in business, politics, sports, and culture.

19. The Long + Short

From innovation charity Nesta, a free online/mobile magazine that “tells stories of innovation that are thoughtful, hopeful and questioning”. Some are long reads and some are short. Hence, the Long + Short.

The weekly newsletter also has other stories of innovation from elsewhere on the web that are well worth a read.

20. University World News

Not content with your own national higher education news? Get a briefing on what’s happening all over the world, with useful comment pieces too, from University World News.

BONUS! – 21. Nuzzel

It’s not quite an email subscription, but a great alert service. Customise it to show you the most popular links being shared by people you follow on Twitter. The online service is great and the powerful email alerts tell you when a certain number of people have tweeted the same link.

You can also get daily email updates of the most popular links from the previous day.

What have I missed? Let me know what newsletters you look forward to getting. Tweet me up…I’m @universityboy.

6 Big Reasons For Second Year Woe & How To Wash The Woe Away


In my last post on getting motivated when you get back to uni, I said about the shock of the second year.

We need to talk about more than motivation… We need to talk about conquering your Second Year Woe.

Yes, Fresher life can push you in every direction until your head is spinning. That’s covered.

But it can be just as much of a whirlwind for second year students too. It’s not fair to expect you to take everything in your stride when you’ve still got so many new challenges of your own.

So let’s address a few of these things right now. Get it sussed before you get stressed.

Like my previous post, I’ve asked Bethany Wren, VP Academic Experience at University of Brighton Students’ Union for some help with this. You can reach Bethany on Facebook and on Twitter too.

So, here are 6 Second Year Woes and how you can deal with them:


1. The honeymoon period is over

When you start anything new, everything is shiny and exciting and woo. By the time you finish your first year, it’s easy to feel that the freshness has gone.

This is where you need to be proactive. There are loads of activities to explore, new situations to dive into, and many ways to rekindle your excitement.

Attitude makes a huge difference to how you feel. When you decide something is boring or you feel like your situation won’t be as exciting this year, you set yourself up for a foregone conclusion.

Continue where you left off. Write down what you want to achieve and experience in your second year. Commit to something you were meaning to do, but never got around to in the first year.

Try to get others involved if you can. The power in numbers will spur you on.

And with ALL THE THINGS going on, it’s easy to forget about YOU. One of Bethany’s personal student survival tips gets you to focus back where it counts. She says, “Look after yourself. Sounds simple now, but it truly [is] the most important thing to do”.

Simple–but crucial–things like food are worth thinking about, explains Bethany:

“Your diet will change how much you can study and how positive you’re feeling, so don’t forget your veggies!”

For more healthy foodie hints, check these TUB links in the archives:


2. There is more housing admin and travelling to do

If you’ve been living on campus (or near to it) in your first year, everything was practically on your doorstep.

What’s it like now you’ve moved further away? Got a longer walk or a bus journey to add to your plans? Sigh.

And what about those housing issues you’ll have that you didn’t encounter in your uni accommodation?

All this takes time.

So factor in something productive when you’re commuting, even if it’s only a few minutes extra walk. Listen to audio of a lecture as you walk, or stick on a relevant podcast. If you take a bus to campus, do some reading or writing so you’re not just looking at your phone doing nothing in particular.

And keep a communal diary for stuff to do with your home. When the bins go out, cleaning rotas, bill payment deadlines, and so on. A bit of joint legwork when you first move in will save you a lot of time over the rest of the year.


3. Work/Life balance is hard to organise

I don’t like the term work/life balance, because it’s not about finding equal amounts of the two things. What you really need is a personal stability that keeps you happy and productive in all aspects of life.

Arrangement is crucial. You can’t wing it any more. Sort out your time, your schedule, your social life, your research, your priorities, and so on. If you go with the flow and let other people dictate when you go out at the last minute, you’ll have less fun than if you had your social time mapped out.

You don’t have to be too strict, but you’re setting yourself up for a fall if you go with the flow all week. An impromptu get-together is fine every now and then. But every other night? Danger.

Then you’ve got extra-curricular activities. It sounds like a lot of extra bother, but it’s not as bad as you’d think and it’s worthwhile for all sorts of reasons. Here’s Bethany:

“Use second year to gain some really valuable work or volunteering experience! I myself did this and am now able to not only say it was one of my greatest memories of university but I can also use it practically for anecdotes in interviews.
“For those who are going into second year who had taken out a year for an internship and are potentially feeling like they have lost touch with peers they made friends with in the first year, I urge you to join a society or a sports team or look at the huge range of activities that park life put on. Amber our Activities and Participation SABB at Brighton will be around putting on loads of great events and activities so watch out for them. You are guaranteed to find something you’ll enjoy!”


4. You were hit by “First year doesn’t count-itis”

Yep, you’re not alone. This still happens to SO many students.

Your Fresher year is a great time to get to grips with university life and meeting new people.

But that year is also useful for getting to grips with degree study and meeting new concepts.

If you didn’t put in as much effort as you wish you’d done, prepare for catch-up time.

Okay, it’s painful.

And yes, it’s frustrating.

But don’t panic just yet!

All you need to sacrifice is an hour or two each week. Spend that time revisiting the content and textbook material from your first year. Read up on academic essays. Prepare in advance for the work ahead of you. See lecturers at the earliest opportunity if you’ve got any concerns so you can get them dealt with and out of the way.

Basically, get clued up now so you don’t continue playing catch-up all year.

You can make up for lost time, so long as you don’t choose to procrastinate and ignore it.

First year doesn’t count-itis may be inconvenient, but it’s no disaster when you grapple with the issues head on.


5. No more “cute, fluffy, first year subjects”

Even if you took the work in your Fresher year dead seriously, your next challenge won’t be more introductory modules. By now, your tutors have taken off your stabilisers, removed the safety rail, and disconnected the sat-nav.

But fear not, because your tutors are still on hand to help you where you need it. They’re not monsters, even the scarier ones.

Don’t feel shy or weak when you feel lost. Be honest about your situation and ask for advice.

Here’s more from Bethany:

“Remember what you have learnt from the first year. Look back over the feedback you got. Can you identify any trends coming up for example, ‘lack of structure’ or ‘undeveloped area’?
“I would suggest that you seek out your personal tutor in the first semester, to not only touch base with them but to also ask if they can advise you on these particular reoccurring themes in the feedback and how to develop or work on them in your assignments this year.”


6. Second year doesn’t get the dynamic focus as first and last years do

There’s so much focus on Freshers and final year students who are about to graduate, that the in-between years are sometimes left behind.

Speak to your students’ union and get the specific issues of second year students heard. That’s why Bethany and other Sabbatical Officers are there at your SU…To listen to you and help take action where it matters.

What do you feel is missing from your second year? How could you be supported better? Are tutors fully aware and supportive of your second-year circumstances?

Basically, don’t suffer in silence. The more voices that can put their point across, the more likely second year students will be seen with just as much importance and not as those in a forgotten year between first and final.

Own your second year with confidence. You’ll go from ‘Woe’ to ‘Grow’ in no time.

Many thanks to Bethany for the great advice. I’ll leave the final word of encouragement to her:

“From me and the SU, I wish all students the biggest and best of luck this year! Go for it!

Remotivate yourself after the summer break. New year, new you?

Remotivate Yourself After the Summer Break. New Year, New You?

Don’t you just love/hate the gap between one academic year and another? :)

In some ways the summer break feels too short. In other ways it seems far too long.

You relaxed. You got some cash from a summer job. You saw your mates back home.

But your work and your focus gets a bit rusty. You feel unpractised.

As soon as you return to university, you’re expected to get back to work and pick up where you left off.

It’s time to remotivate yourself.

But a new academic year also brings with it new challenges for your learning. Challenges that could stump you even further.

In my second year, I remember people’s unease and worry with the sudden uptake in expectations. Especially as many thought (and still do think) that first year doesn’t count. [Hint: It really does count…]

The new academic year not only meant we had to re-evaluate what we’d already learned, but also meant we had to push toward a higher level.

Not surprising, but a challenge on top of a challenge is…well, a challenge!

How do you recover from a summer away AND build on top of that too?

Here are 5 tips to get you started:

little and often

1. Little and often

It’s so easy to slip into an “I’ll do it later” mindset. Yes, there’s plenty of time, but that time rushes by fast.

Next thing you know, you’ve only got a day before that essay is due in. Or you’re just a few hours before a seminar where you are expected to engage in discussion.


There’s a better way. Start when you get it, but only a small amount.

Little and often means that you spend a few minutes each day working on the subject at hand and not overwhelming yourself with too much content.

You may only need 10 minutes a day, you may need half an hour. However long you need, it’s much better spaced out in chunks.

By committing to just a short amount of time, you may be spurred on to continue doing more once you feel a flow. Or you can give up after a bad session, safe in the knowledge that you actually have the next day. And the next. And the next! You weren’t in the mood today, but you’re not forced to carry on regardless.

So the longer you have, the more chance you’ll have for inspiration to hit. If that’s not a reason to start early and not leave everything for the last minute, I don’t know what is.

This is the same method I suggest for working on essays too. The more time you give yourself to do the coursework, the more likely you are to hand in a piece of work that is worthy of you.

prepare in advance

2. Prepare in advance

Preparation shields you from surprises.

You usually get a timetable and reading lists and information on what to expect throughout the module or semester. When you look at this in advance, you can highlight common themes and the types of work that you’re expected to do.

With this information at hand, you’re not actively learning, but you’ve now got an idea of what you’ll need. Then you can focus on any areas you’re uncertain about.

Planning the coming weeks will also help you to find ways of making unenjoyable tasks more friendly and palatable. You may still draw a blank, but at least you’ve got more time to force yourself into a more inspired place. Good luck!

schedule your free time

3. Schedule your free time

Use your timetables and to-do lists for EVERYTHING. Even free time and fun activities.

It sounds strange to schedule free time, but it helps you to focus on the pleasure of leisure.

Without this, you won’t make the most of your free time. It tends to just get lost.

I spoke to Bethany Wren, VP Academic Experience at University of Brighton Students’ Union. Bethany suggests that you should “rota in some ‘you’ time every day, even if it is an hour in the bath with a vanilla candle, this will keep you sane“.

By scheduling ALL your time, including when you just want to do absolutely nothing or when you’re happy to do something on a whim, that free time can be used with more purpose. Even if that purpose is just to relax.

And sometimes the purpose is to gain some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. Bethany says:

“Remember your friends once a month. My friends and I had a meal out in Brighton – it reminded us that there was oxygen outside of the library but also that we were all feeling the same kind of stresses, and that was comforting.”

Your summer may have been quiet, lazy and carefree. So keep some of those summer memories and schedule those relaxing times when you’ve genuinely got nothing on. The next day may be back to work, but that can truly wait until tomorrow.

All you need now is a hammock.

find something new to do

4. Find something new to do

In my final year, I had a lot more on my plate. There as the small matter of a dissertation, I was living back on the student village with first years, and I was now a senior student.

But I still wanted to find new things to do.

For instance, I wanted to read a selection of Sunday newspapers to check out subjects that I’d never paid much attention to, and to get a taste of the different perspectives that come from a single story.

I would wake up early on Sunday morning. That way, practically every other student in the student village was sleeping, or had gone home for the weekend. I’d walk to the shop, buy a selection of papers, and wash my clothes in the invariably empty laundry.

As the washing machine spun around, I would sit back and read. A peaceful way to find out what’s going on in the world and expand my horizons without interrupting my other plans.

No need for sacrifices.

Okay, getting up early on a Sunday isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But by using the points above, it shouldn’t be hard to find what suits you. There’s always more time than you think.

And if you really are THAT strapped for time, maybe you DO need to make a sacrifice or two. That can be tough, but one you’ll thank yourself for in the long run.

I’m thankful for developing that new habit in my final year of engaging with new content. It’s helped me to build up good curation systems over the years.

ask for help

5. Ask for help

One of Bethany Wren’s top survival tips for getting back on track at university is to always ask for help when you need it:

“Nobody is expecting you to do this by yourself and there are a lot of people out there who are ready to give you a helping hand, all you have to do is ASK. We [at Brighton] have our Support service, SUSS at the SU who you can contact via email any time. Equally, if there is a member of staff such as your personal tutor who you can talk to, do!”

Renewed motivation can only manifest when you get the right type of assistance. Without it, you only feel overwhelmed.

A.S.K. – Asking Secures Knowledge


Armed with these five tips, you should be well on your way to feeling remotivated.

And if you’re on a real hardcore productivity trip, I heartily recommend Graham Allcott’s books, “How to be a Productivity Ninja” and “How to be a Knowledge Ninja.

No matter what your summer break was like, there’s more than enough scope to remotivate yourself and feel ready for anything as you hit campus once again.

What’s your main focus for this year?