Freya Garrigan, Year 13 A Level Student

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Freya Garrigan, a Year 13 A Level Student from St Richard Reynolds Catholic College, shares the story of her journey with aerospace!

I didn’t grow up knowing that Aerospace would be my passion in years to come, it was more of a gradual growth overtime. My best advice would be to be open and flexible to new ideas, or maybe even combining two areas of interest could end up being your ideal career.

I always loved science and art alongside a fascination for space and the planets. After choosing a broad range of GCSEs to accommodate both pathways, I realised I had a passion specifically for Physics and Design & Technology (DT). It was also around this time that I came across the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) through a family friend’s recommendation. This led me to attend one of their career days which I mostly credit as the catalyst to my progression into the Aeronautical world alongside my underlying interests in all things space. The career day allowed me to explore all of the possibilities of the Engineering world and the different pathways.

Choosing A Levels for Engineering

When it came to selecting my A Levels, I knew I wanted to pursue my interest in Aeronautics and Physics but was unsure how I should accommodate that with my A Level choices. An important first step was contacting the Careers Team at the RAeS who emailed me a list of approved University courses. I decided to work backwards from the University courses, spending time reading what each course offered and what A-level subjects they required.

There are so many areas of study from chemical to mechanical, all of which can be an eye opener to new career paths and after weighing up which courses appealed to me the most, I whittled down my choices to Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Further Maths and DT.

I knew I wanted to choose Maths, Physics and Further Maths but I was conflicted between Chemistry and DT. I felt the pressure to choose Chemistry because I thought that that was what I was supposed to choose as the more traditional path, but I was still feeling the pull of my creative side to keep DT. I decided to contact the Careers Team to ask their advice and they assured me that I should choose the path I would be happiest with, so I went with my gut and where my passion lied and chose DT.

For some universities, Further Maths is a preferred subject for Engineering entry requirements, however it’s often not compulsory. From experience, I would encourage doing Further Maths for a term or two if you are undecided. It’s a great asset even just for getting ahead in A-level maths.

Engineering Work Experience

The spring/summer of Year 12 was a busy time with both University Open Days and work experience.

I worked with RAeS at Farnborough and RIAT, and through going to these events it really helped me to solidify that I wanted to pursue a career in Aerospace.

A tip from me to find work experience is to sign up to email lists and follow companies or things you are interested in as this is often how opportunities are advertised, and how I found some of mine. I applied for, and was lucky enough to be accepted, on both The Design Engineering Institute and the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory online work experiences. As my project during my work experience with UCL, I worked on Space Habitation and it was through this project where I realised that I could combine my two loves of Aerospace and DT and has since lead me to apply to both Aerospace Engineering and Design Engineering as two ways of pursuing my goal of designing and working on spacecraft and specifically space habitable environments.

Year 13 – Applying for University

Attending several University Open Days was invaluable in meeting lecturers and current students. Listening to the course talks really helped add detail to what I’d read online and the specialism choices further down the course. Being on a campus really brought home that I’d be applying for university and taking the next steps in my education.

Part of applying to University is filling in a UCAS form and writing a personal statement. Whilst at the open days, I attended seminars on how to prepare an engineering focused personal statement, which gave great insight into what to include and what to leave out. The careers department at school also helped fine tune the content.

To add depth and scope to my personal statement I also included extra-curricular activities such as online videos, courses and talks I have taken part in. I can’t wait to start the next steps in my future study that combines both my passion for engineering and design.