Sidney’s incoming students will participate in the College’s first ever ‘preparation week’ designed to boost our new students’ confidence to flourish at Cambridge.

Sidney is introducing a brand-new preparation week to support our new students’ development and transition to Sidney. The programme will focus on maintaining psychological and physical wellbeing, learning effectively, working successfully with others, and leading a rewarding life at university.

This week will precede the usual freshers’ week and Dr Harriet Groom, Natural Sciences Fellow at Sidney, has played a key role in organising the week’s academic activities, supported by Dr Catherine Sumnall, Admissions Director, and Mr Max Beber, Senior Tutor.

Harriet commented, “We are excited to introduce this transformational programme for Sidney’s incoming freshers. Students and higher education practitioners alike will recognise the challenges facing learners coming to university for the first time.

“I am privileged to be able to interact with exceptionally talented and enthusiastic individuals in my role as an academic mentor and teacher of first-year students. However, in recent years we have observed students struggling to manage their studies efficiently. Recent severely disrupted educational experiences have made these problems worse. Our academic program during preparation week will introduce students to the tools to help them navigate their studies and foster a sense of belonging to this community of learners.

“Belonging is an increasingly recognised parameter in educational success and is a focus of our preparation week. Sidney has a reputation for inclusion and being welcoming. We are focusing on belonging, bringing together academic skills and wellbeing strategies as these are inextricably linked.

“Students will be introduced to widely applicable study skills, including creative thinking exercises to enhance problem solving, reflective practice, using a range of different forms of feedback effectively and maintenance of a portfolio of work. This will be complemented by domain-specific problem-solving including revision of key concepts within broad subject groups. We will emphasise the benefits of working collaboratively with their colleagues in the same subject but also more widely, to highlight cross disciplinary advantages and wider friendship groups. Beyond study skills we will also touch on planning time and deadlines effectively and handling a full inbox!

“In engaging students early to use tools and then revisiting these skills embedded within teaching delivery in College, we will foster a community of confident learners who will support each other to success. Learning is for life. When that learning is aligned to students’ goals and values, supported with wellbeing strategies and tools for success we create opportunities for students to thrive with us in Sidney and beyond.”

Starting university is often a daunting time, and the COVID pandemic has introduced an added layer of complexity having negatively affected many young people’s wellbeing and learning. Research has shown that experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression can have a significant impact on academic performance. This programme recognises the interplay between mental and physical wellbeing and academic performance and focuses on student skills development to enhance psychological and physical wellbeing and engaging with the academic curriculum.

Thanks to the generosity of our alumni and supporters, Sidney’s preparation week is part of a wider College strategy and initiative, in collaboration with the University, to enhance mental health and wellbeing.

Sidney is excited to welcome 110 incoming freshers for the new academic year, including three who will be joining us as part of the University’s inaugural Cambridge Foundation Year.

If you have something that would make a good news or feature item, please email