Downe House Futures

No matter which profession or career path they choose, Downe House girls typically achieve great things thanks to the breadth of support and guidance provided by the Futures department.

Supporting students to plan for life beyond Downe

Making decisions about the future is a complex and daunting task for anyone but the key to success lies in making an informed decision. To enable girls to choose a course, a career or an alternative pathway, Downe House has put into place a comprehensive higher education and careers guidance programme that begins in Remove (Year 7) and builds progressively throughout the school years, with a four-year programme supporting the girls from Lower Fifth through to Upper Sixth (Years 10 – 13).

Our podcast episode allows you to hear directly from our pupils about the advice and opportunities offered by the Futures department. Listen to a snippet here:

Mrs Sarah Barnard, Director of Futures Department

Sarah is thrilled to be leading the new Futures Department at the start of the academic year 2022. Having been responsible for the Overseas Applications for many years, it is Sarah’s pleasure to be able to broaden her experience by helping pupils on their unique individual journeys after Downe House.

Sarah continues to be the overseas universities specialist, having spent the last 15 years developing her knowledge of non-UK universities across the continents. The process for applying to the US has been streamlined in recent times and, as well as offering in-house SAT tuition from Millie, all the Upper Sixth pupils have an individually tailored programme which involves a weekly meeting to oversee their application. For applications to other countries, such as Canada, a fortnightly meeting is scheduled.

Over the last few years, pupils have begun to explore higher education opportunities on a much more global level. Our aim continues to be to encourage pupils to be able to apply to the best universities possible and many of these fall outside the UK.

The world today provides many opportunities and as a department, Sarah will strive to provide the best options for each unique individual, so they can achieve their very best.

World readiness

The World Ready programme includes talks from external speakers (alumnae, parents and leading specialists) about a wide variety of careers and university or course-related topics as well as regular one-to-one guidance sessions, a Higher Education Day which focuses on making Higher Education applications and writing personal statements, Academic Conferences, a Gap Year Fair, the Elective Programme which extends the scope of learning outside the curriculum, various societies and activities to develop skills, and talks on student life and finance. To make applications stand out, the girls are encouraged to take part in super-curricular activities and are introduced to the world of work through finding placements for work shadowing and internships, many of which are provided by Downe House alumnae.



The popular DH LINKS initiative provides networking events which connect girls in the Fifth and Sixth Forms with alumnae and parents in a specific sector to provide them with contacts and an understanding of different career pathways. Recent events have included a focus on fashion, hospitality, property, engineering, architecture, finance and law.

Where do our girls go?

The majority of girls apply to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities as well as overseas universities in the USA, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Europe. A specialist team runs a comprehensive programme for Oxbridge, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine applications, which takes the form of a one-year process starting in the Lower Sixth to prepare girls in every aspect of their application to maximise their chances of success in what is an increasingly competitive arena. The Higher Education team also provides specialised guidance for girls wishing to pursue a more creative route such as art foundation, drama, acting, music or apprenticeship.



Higher education guidance in Lower School

The programme starts in Remove (Year 7) when girls are familiarised with the range of different careers and roles, and they start to find out more about the skills that employers look for and the requirements of industry in general. Girls are encouraged to visit their parents’ workplace for a day and return to School to share their experience with their peers. For many, this will be their first glimpse into the world of work.

In Lower Fourth (Year 8) girls explore the world or work further and are introduced to the concepts of work, leisure, training, career, education, work-life balance etc. They learn some useful decision-making skills and they are taught financial terms, such as budget, income, tax and mortgage, and this is their first introduction to managing money in a virtual world.

Higher education guidance in Upper School

The Upper School programme is delivered in a variety of ways including formal lessons with Learning for Life through presentations, our lecture series, one-to-one appointments and psychometric profiling with the help of My Future Choice Ltd. These years are crucial, not just in terms of learning more about the real world, but also in terms of discovering oneself and making the right choices for I/GCSEs in Upper Fourth (Year 9) and A Levels in the Upper Fifth (Year 11). Girls are also introduced to UNIFROG to start looking into the world of Higher Education and careers early on.

The programme starts in Lower Fifth (Year 10). There is no doubt that the application process for university requires very careful thought, over a sustained period of time, and we develop, in our girls, an understanding of the importance of starting to think beyond Downe House, when they enter the Lower Fifth.

Higher education guidance in Sixth Form

The Sixth Form programme comprises a very comprehensive set of processes whereby guidance is on offer, not only on university admission but also on apprenticeships, internships, finance and gap year activities. Specialist guidance is on offer from our Head of Oxbridge and Medicine Applications, the Overseas Universities Advisor, the Creative Courses Coordinator and the Higher Education (HE) team. Tutors follow girls’ progress carefully throughout the two years and the HE team gives guidance at every stage. In the Lower Sixth, girls attend several dedicated university preparation days which include talks from university admissions tutors, professionals and external agencies, Oxbridge & Medicine applicants are assigned mentors to guide them on each aspect of their application – entrance tests, essays, interview preparation, personal statements and wider academic reading. We work closely with partners and outside agencies, including university admissions tutors, UNIFROG, Oxbridge Applications and the Medic Portal to provide the most current and up-to-date guidance.

World Ready Programme

This part of our programme involves girls finding out more about the world of work, and acquiring the skills and experience needed by industry from an early age; It starts with ‘Take your daughter to work day’ in Remove and continues into the Fifth Form with the ‘Work shadowing scheme’, which facilitates short-term placements for girls with employers to provide insights into the workplace. Girls shadow employers primarily to observe and learn – not to undertake activities which require extensive training or expertise.

Applying for, participating in and completing an internship as a school student gives our girls confidence and helps them develop the skills needed to work globally. The DH LINKS Scheme propels them into the work of networking with alumnae and parents of present and past girls.

Overseas universities application guidance

More and more girls are looking at higher education options abroad and our Overseas Universities Advisor has extensive experience of the application processes in higher education institutions around the globe and offers a bespoke programme to support each individual with their application. We work with an external company, A List Education for our ACT/SAT tuition which has proved a fruitful partnership. Preparation for students applying to any overseas university begins in the Upper Fifth where general information is supplied through assemblies or one-to-one meetings for those who already have quite a clear higher education pathway planned. A more formalised programme of meetings start in the Lower Sixth alongside a 10-week SAT/ACT preparation course, culminating with weekly support in the Upper Sixth. We have hosted a number of visiting admissions staff from US Colleges who have given talks providing further guidance.

To date, girls have gained places at the University of Melbourne, Monash University, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, NYU, UCLA, USC, Penn, Wesleyan, George Washington, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Northeastern, Barnard, Trinity Dublin, Wake Forest, Richmond, CalTech and Miami. Girls have also pursued arts-based courses at Parsons, the Lee Strasberg Institute, the New York Film Academy and the Institute for the Arts, Chicago. Scholarships ranging from $10,000 to $80,000 have been awarded, and one of our students won a full merit-based scholarship to Duke University in North Carolina, and two others from Georgia Tech.

Post-qualification application help

When girls leave Downe House, they find that they are still fully supported by the excellent ‘Post Applicants’ programme which gives alumnae the same level of careers advice and guidance as they received when they were in School. They are invited to regular DH LINKS networking events which gives them the opportunity to meet parents and other alumnae working in the same sector.

The overall aim of the Higher Education team is to help each girl make the best choices for the next stage of their educational journey.

Keep up to date with news and views from the Higher Education and Global Initiatives team by following them on Twitter.

Tours & Open Mornings

The best way to find out more about Downe House is to experience it for yourself. Book a personal tour or join us at one of our Open Mornings, available throughout the year.

Book your tickets | Academic Conference – Maximising Pupils’ Potential | Thursday 13 June 2024
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