Frequently asked questions

Answers to some of our most frequently asked questions from prospective applicants. If you cannot find the answer to your question below, email, and we will be happy to help.

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How many students join SELA each year? Is it very competitive?

We select up to 40 students each year, and we typically receive three to five applications per place available. Applications are therefore competitive, but remember that we are looking for you to demonstrate potential as a future leader, rather the an amazing list of previous achievements!

And if you don’t apply, you definitely won’t get a place...

Do I have to be in the first year of my course to apply?

Yes. SELA runs alongside second and third year of any engineering/computer science degree programme in the Faculty of Engineering.

You need to apply to join us during your first year and, if selected, will start your SELA journey from the beginning of the second year of your degree.

If you do not apply during first year, or you apply and are unsuccessful, you cannot apply (again) in future years.

I am on a bachelors rather than a masters programme. Does that mean I can’t apply?

No, you can apply, but please tell us in the final section of your application form (“Anything else you want to tell us”) that you are on a BEng programme. Please also indicate if you are intending to transfer to a masters programme.

Being a bachelors student won’t necessarily prevent you from joining SELA, but the reason we recommend being on a masters programme is to avoid you doing the second year of SELA in your final year of study, when, in most cases, you’ll also have your biggest piece of coursework to do.

We have had students complete the programme in their final year, however, and in most cases it has not caused a problem – they have just needed to manage their time carefully.

Is SELA open to international students?

Yes, all first-year undergraduate students in the Faculty of Engineering are eligible to apply.

I’m studying Computer Science – can I still apply?

Yes, please do! Computer Science in Sheffield is within the Faculty of Engineering, and SELA works right across the Faculty.

I’m doing a year in industry or a year abroad. Would I still be able to join SELA?

Yes. If your study abroad or year in industry falls during your time in SELA, you will pause your engagement with us before you go, and then when you return, you’ll re-join us.

For example, if you are going on your year in industry in the 2022-23 academic year, you would complete the first year of SELA in 2021-22, then go on your year in industry, and return to SELA when you resume your studies in September 2023.

I want a career in academia and not industry should I still apply?

Yes! SELA supports students to develop and realise leadership capability and our aim is to nurture leaders for both industry and research.

You will meet and work with research and industry leaders through the programme, and can opt to undertake one of your summer placements in a research context.

Applications and selection

How do I apply?

Visit our website and click the “Apply Now” button on our homepage. Note that applications open in January and the “Apply Now” button will not be visible until this date.

Is there an application or registration fee?

No. SELA is offered free of charge to students in the Faculty of Engineering. It is mainly funded by sponsorship from industry, with some support from the Faculty of Engineering.

Do I need to have achieved particular academic grades in order to apply?

The selection process is based on your potential to be a leader. We don't look at academic grades at all – and that’s for two reasons.

First, if you are sufficiently academically capable to be studying a degree in Sheffield, we know that your academic performance is strong. And second, we know that academic performance in terms of grades is not a good predictor of how effective a leader an individual will be.

We assess potential through our seven Foundational Attributes, although we don’t expect you to be perfect in all of those areas before the programme.

What are the types of things SELA is looking for when selecting members?

SELA is structured around seven Foundational Attributes for Leadership. Our selection process considers the extent to which candidates demonstrate these, through the application form and interview.

We are not expecting candidates to perfectly meet all of these attributes. We will help you to develop them through the programme, but we want to see how you are already beginning to demonstrate them through experience you’ve had already.

Do I need particular engineering skills to apply?

No. You will continue to develop your engineering skills through your degree programme.

SELA will provide additional training to develop your capability as a leader in an engineering context. You will learn to apply the technical knowledge you gain from your degree as a leader.

The SELA programme and commitment

What is the SELA time commitment?

We ask all our members to commit four to six hours per week during teaching weeks (ie, weeks 1-12 of each semester).

Usually, two hours of this will be scheduled by us, for workshops, guest talks, or project meetings. The remaining two to four hours will be spent working on your team project, building your skills portfolio and reflecting on your development, securing your summer placement, and building your professional network.

Do students complete SELA alongside or after their degree programme?

SELA runs alongside the second and third year of any undergraduate engineering degree in the Faculty of Engineering – ideally a course that leads to the award of a masters level degree, but see “I am on a bachelors rather than a masters programme. Does that mean I can’t apply?” above.

Is it possible to do SELA alongside other extra-curricular activities?

SELA requires four to six hours per week, and we expect you to be fully committed to this and to attend all of our sessions.

This is important because we turn away lots of excellent students each year because we have just 40 places available, so getting a place comes with a responsibility to make the most of it.

We encourage you to undertake other activities as part of your university experience, but ask that you prioritise SELA second only to your degree.

Is SELA supported by industry?

Yes. From mentoring students through our activities, offering guest talks, and hosting industry visits, to setting and supporting our integrative projects, hosting internships, and providing financial sponsorship – industry is closely involved in shaping SELA and developing you as a leader.

One of the benefits of membership is being able to access and learn from this network during your time in the programme, and as a graduate of it.

Are there networking opportunities with industry and employers?

Yes, this is a fundamental part of the programme. You will meet industry and research partners right from your first day in the programme, and they will work with you to help you develop your skills and contextualise your learning.

Throughout the programme, you will have guest talks and workshops facilitated by industry experts. We go on some site visits, and encourage you to attend other events for the purposes of networking and developing your projects. We also provide networking training to help you make the most of those opportunities.

Our aim is that you benefit from the SELA network whilst you are in the programme, and also that the people you meet are your professional network as you graduate and move out into the workplace.

One of the benefits of being in the programme is that you’ll graduate with a professional network of people who are experts in a range of different fields, and who are keen to help you continue your development.

Is the programme delivered online or in person?

Usually, SELA is delivered in person, on the University campus and with occasional site visits – and, of course, you’re off campus for your summer placements, unless you do a research project with one of our academic staff as a supervisor.

However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, we have effectively transitioned SELA to be delivered online. It still involves very practical workshops and opportunities for you to learn through experience, but our hope is to return to classroom based delivery once it is safe for us to do so.

SELA projects

Do you get a choice of which projects you do?

In the first year, the whole cohort works together to respond to a single project brief. However, the brief is deliberately very open-ended, so there’s lots of scope for you to shape and influence it – we want you to take the lead right from the start.

In second year, we typically offer four or five different project areas, closely supported by a mentor from industry or the community. You will have some choice over which of these you want to work on.

Are the projects SELA members work on tailored to students’ specific disciplines?

SELA is unique in the UK in being an interdisciplinary leadership development programme for undergraduate students – which means that you’ll be working alongside engineers from all the disciplines of engineering in the Faculty.

You will contribute to the project based on your own disciplinary expertise, but will also have the opportunity to learn how different engineering disciplines come together to solve problems.

Learning to appreciate the value and contribution of experts in other fields, and to work effectively with them, is an important part of your training as a leader.

How are the projects run and are they run during term time?

You will do two real-life projects whilst you are in the programme, each of which is an academic year in duration. These start from the first week in each year, when we give you the outline brief.

In the first year, you’ll work together as a whole cohort to consider what you want to deliver in response to the brief, create your vision, secure support for it, and then make it happen.

In the second year, we have a range of projects, and you’ll be able to choose which one you want to work on. You’ll have a dedicated mentor to help you, but still lots of scope to shape the project and create your own direction.

The projects run across the whole year, including semester time. The time commitment we ask for is four to six hours per week. Two of those hours will be scheduled by us, and the remaining two to four are for you to reflect on your learning, engage in networking and work on your project. Those hours are flexible.

We also understand that there are some points in the year when everyone is busy with assessments, and so our time and project management training will help you identify those periods and plan around them, so that in exam weeks you can be less busy with SELA activity. We don't schedule any of our workshops or guest speakers during the exam periods.

What topic areas do the projects cover? Can I explore my own interests?

The projects are intentionally based on broad, open-ended briefs that allow you as the cohort/project team to shape them and bring in your own interests.

As developing leaders, we want you to create your own vision within the framework of the projects, and then to secure and benefit from the support of a range of stakeholders in making that vision a reality – rather than simply delivering a defined brief that we give to you.

This means that there is wide scope for you to focus on particular areas of engineering that interest you the most.

All of the projects are real – with real stakeholders, real budgets (typically up to £2-10k), and real outcomes. Crucially, unlike projects you do in your course, there are no grades. You succeed or fail based on delivering value to your target ‘customer’ segment.

Summer placements

If I join SELA, do I definitely get an internship?

SELA requires all members to undertake two summer placements, one in each summer you are in the programme.

We don’t offer a menu of placements, because that wouldn’t provide you with the flexibility to take up an opportunity closely aligned with your own interests and career aspirations. Instead, we provide lots of support and guidance to help you find and secure a placement yourself, in an area that interests you.

We have an extensive network of employers who have worked with us, and so can help you to make connections, and increasingly, industry partners contact us to advertise opportunities, because they recognise the value of the additional skillset SELA members and graduates can bring.

How long are the summer placements?

Each placement of your two summer placements must be a minimum of 10 weeks long. If you are taking a year in industry – or you want to transfer to a degree with one – then the year in industry can count as one of your SELA placements.

Can I do a summer placement abroad?

Yes – placements can be in the UK or overseas.

What if I already have a summer placement lined up?

You can use this placement as part of your SELA experience. You will simply need to give us the details of where you’ll be working, and the role you’ll be undertaking, about half way through your first year with us.

SELA outcomes

Has the programme helped you get where you want to go once you graduate?

SELA graduates continually tell us that the skills and experiences they had during the programme were instrumental in helping them secure graduate opportunities, and then to make the best of those opportunities.

Our students go in a very diverse range of directions, including starting their own businesses, but also working in established organisations. We have a number of cases of students specifically being selected for roles because of their training with SELA, and of our graduates being promoted rapidly within organisations.