The start of another academic term is almost here and applications for this year’s Cardiff Award will open soon. We asked last year’s Cardiff Award Student of the Year winner Amy Thompson to write about her experience on the Award programme and any advice she has for students who are thinking about applying.
Wow – what a year! Cardiff Award has been the most important experience I have had throughout my time at Cardiff University and I would thoroughly recommend the scheme to any student. So what are you waiting for?
I was first introduced to the scheme in the early part of my first year, where members of the Award staff gave a presentation during one of my lectures to promote it. I also heard from alumni students who had already completed the Award; they were all particularly inspiring and really convinced me to sign up. If you are worried that taking part in something like this will stop you from enjoying your time at university, don’t be! You will have plenty of time throughout the year to complete your 70 required hours and still be able to revel in student life, on top of your degree. If you are in your first year, you may not be thinking about graduate opportunities or placements just yet, but your time at university really does fly by (sorry for the cliché but it’s true!) and before you know it, you’ll be CV writing and filling out endless application forms, and you will need to be able to show employers how you can stand out amongst the crowds against other applicants. When I was searching for an industrial placement, the Cardiff Award was something I was able to apply to almost every question on application forms due to the diverse activities and experience I gained whilst completing it. I even took my finished portfolio along to an interview – I was asked a lot of questions about my experience and I managed to get the job, so they must have been impressed!
If you do decide to complete the award, remember – this is your experience. It is certainly true in this case that you get out from it what you put in! There are an incredible amount of opportunities that I wouldn’t have even heard of had I not been involved in the Award, including workshops run by the Skills Development Service (SDS) and Cardiff University Enterprise. The Award staff are also always emailing you with lists of local work experience and job opportunities, and remember – some employers ONLY look for Cardiff Award students, so you are competing against a much lower amount of students compared to other placements, and your chances of being successful are therefore so much higher!
Once you have signed up to the Award, one of the first things you are encouraged to do is to complete a self-assessment of yourself. I know that evaluating your own ability can be tricky, but it gets easier with practise, I promise! It is an essential skill to be able to highlight your own strengths and weaknesses, so you can not only sell yourself at interview but also know where improvements need to be made. Completing this self-audit is vital as it forms a basis for where your time on the Award should be spent. DO NOT shy away from your weaknesses!! Make them your strengths by practising them over and over. For me, I really struggled with public speaking, as many of us do, so I threw myself in to as many activities throughout my Award which would force me in front of an audience. Yes it’s scary, and it’s okay to be nervous, but I am now so much more confident when speaking in front of others.
However you decide to complete the Award – just enjoy it! You won’t regret it. Good luck to you all!