There are hundreds of remarkable, life-changing stories of people whose careers first started when they took part in a Sutton Trust programme. You can read about some of our alumni’s stories below.
Open to those who have taken part in one of the Trust’s programmes, members of the Sutton Trust Network enjoy:
Access to a network of over 20,000 Sutton Trust alumni at all stages of their careers.
The chance to help others with support and advice
Offers of career and internship opportunities on the jobs board
Alumni can sign up now at www.suttontrustnetwork.com.
When I first heard about the summer schools, I jumped at the chance to apply. As an A-level student, I knew I wanted to study economics at university but I didn’t think studying at Cambridge was a realistic goal for me. Despite having the academic results to apply, it just wasn’t on my radar as something that someone with my background would be able to do.
However, as soon as I got to the summer school at Cambridge, that mindset changed forever. The people I met were friendly, welcoming, and I realised that I had just as much right to a place there as someone with a more privileged upbringing.
I went home, and started the application process. I was successful and started at Cambridge the following October, going on to spend a year at MIT, completing undergraduate classes at Harvard too. After graduating I began my career as a Management Consultant at Oliver Wyman and become one of the youngest partners in the firm eight years later.
Lindsey Naylor is a Cambridge graduate, a Sutton Trust fellow and Management Consultant at Oliver Wyman.
I grew up in Walthamstow in North-East London. It is a challenging place. Many people are from a low socio-economic background and there is little aspiration. Even those who are bright are not primed to push themselves to be the best that they can. But there is an overwhelming community feel nevertheless.
There was not much careers’ advice at my secondary school. I would have benefitted from it. Gaining work experience was from my own efforts and it was quite hard to get. This is the reason why the Summer School was so beneficial.
The Sutton Trust Cambridge Summer School busted a few myths, especially the one that students who study there are from elite backgrounds. You realise they there are ordinary people. The mock trial was the most inspiring moment. I enjoyed the rigour of the preparation and the cross examination of witnesses. There was that single moment when I realised that I wanted to study Law. I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to be a barrister. I hope to do a Masters at Oxford, and after that, to train as a commercial barrister.
Josiah Senu is a law student at LSE.
My brother went to Leeds University to study Theatre and Performance three years before I started at Oxford University, he was the first in our family to attend University. Neither of our parents were educated beyond CSE level and my extended family’s expectation was that we should enter the world of work as soon as possible. The wider family were not impressed that I was 21 before I had my first full time job!
I attended the Summer School in 2012. It was great to meet existing students; highlighting that successful people come from all walks of life. It made me to want to apply to Oxford but I knew that if I didn’t get in, I could still achieve what I wanted – I needed to ‘keep my eye on the ball’. If there were knockbacks, I had to keep on working on a way to achieve my aims.
The UK summer school gave me the confidence to apply for a BA in Jurisprudence at Oxford, I would not have applied otherwise. It made me realise that my own self-limiting beliefs were holding me back, and that “people like me” do become successful professionals.
Hayley Topham is a law graduate from the University of Oxford, and Senior Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Justice
Pursuing a legal career did not come naturally to me. My family lacked any legal professionals and few of those who attended my local comprehensive became lawyers. When I first saw the Pathways to Law leaflet in the school library, I was pleasantly surprised that I would be able to explore what seemed like an impenetrable profession.
Working in a ‘Magic Circle’ law firm through Pathways opened my eyes. Not only did it teach me what that fanciful term meant, but I also became aware of the possibility that I could one day work in such a firm. As I looked out of the shiny offices and into the view of the City, I began to physically see myself as part of this world. The importance of less privileged students being able to picture themselves working in an elite profession cannot be understated. With this in mind, I pursued a law degree with the aim of qualifying as a lawyer.
I believe the alumni network is key to connecting members at different stages of our professional careers. It helps new members find their way into a career, as well as help those already in a profession to advance further up the ladder. My hope is for alumni to actively engage with the network, be it via mentoring or networking.
Kelvin Ma is a graduate of SOAS University.
I am from a single parent family and I’m the youngest of three. I am the first to go to university in my family. I have two older brothers.
My school in Stockport had a lot of intelligent people and a lot of people wanted to go to university. But we didn’t ask many questions. People could have achieved more if they had information and support. Going to university was unheard of. The focus wasn’t on pushing you to do better. Very few people strived to get the top grades because they didn’t have a reason to.
I was on the Pathways to Law programme. It was my first proper experience of staying in a university and doing serious academic work but also learning some softer skills. The people were fantastic. We would chat about our different experiences over breakfast. You realised you’re not alone in your dreams and you’re working towards your goals.
The Summer School opened doors. I met a barrister and I was bold enough to ask if I could do work experience. I then landed another programme which helped me to land a scholarship. The experience connects you to so many things. If you knew how to grab opportunities, they were limitless.
Bethany Gregory is Law graduate of Oxford University, and a trainee solicitor with Allen and Overy in March 2018.
I grew up on a council estate in Ewell. My mother was a hotel receptionist and my father worked as a part-time barman and part-time security employee. He attended his local comprehensive school, where he was on free school meals.
In the summer of 1999 James I attended the Sutton Trust Law summer school at Oxford University. It was my first experience of Oxford. I left inspired and determined to come back. It opened a door and gave me the confidence to walk through it and not look back.
I’m now keen to give back through the Fellowship to help others from non-privileged backgrounds to fulfil their potential and gain life-changing experiences.
I went on to study at Oxford gaining both a First-class Law undergraduate degree and a Distinction in his Masters (BCL).
I was the first generation of his family to attend university.
James is a Barrister at Fountain Court Chambers, where he specialises in Commercial Litigation.
I attended the University of Nottingham Summer School as an unconfident, clueless 16-year old in 2012. The experience changed the course of my life. After being given the opportunity to attend the Summer School, I developed an understanding of where and why I should go to University.
I was the first person from my family to ever attend university. My parents were equally as clueless as I was, and most of what I knew about university was from television. All my teachers told me I should go, but I didn’t know why.
Widening participation is a now a cause I strongly believe in, and have regularly attempted to get involved. At Nottingham, I worked on the Summer School for three years. When I graduated, I won an award for ‘outstanding contribution to widening participation’ which I was happier about than my first-class degree!
The Sutton trust is an incredible organisation and I wish for it to continue its work for years to come. Without the organisation and others, students from backgrounds like me would be left behind in an educational system that disadvantages the working-class.
Tom Wilson is currently on his gap year, working as an Assistant Language teacher in Japan. He hopes to pursue a Master’s degree.
“Oxford and Cambridge were a world away from the London council estate I grew up on. When I was a teenager I thought that studying there was just for kids from private schools. It wasn’t for the likes of me.
But I got good grades in my GCSEs and a teacher told me to apply to a Sutton Trust summer school. I didn’t realise it then but that advice changed my life.
I got a place and spent a week in the summer of 2000 living as a Cambridge history student. I went to lectures, wrote essays and met some great people.
It was just the confidence boost I needed. When I got home I knew that I was going to apply to Cambridge.
The summer school made me realise that I had just as much right to go to a top university as anyone else. Not only that, I had a good chance of getting in. I saw that Cambridge wasn’t the stuffy institution I thought it was. I knew that I would fit in, make friends and have a great time.
The Sutton Trust has had a massive impact on my life. If I hadn’t spent that week in 2000 on their summer school in Cambridge, I don’t think I would have so much confidence to apply. It has certainly changed my life and given me opportunities that led to my election to Parliament at the age of 32.
Going to university opens so many doors. If you have the grades and it feels like the right choice for you, my advice is to go for it!”
Wes Streeting is MP for Ilford North.
I attended a comprehensive school in Leicester where we weren’t pushed very hard. My friends who went to private schools were expected to do well. In comprehensive schools, children are expected to pass.
My father ran his own business and my parents always encouraged me to do well but I wasn’t pushed academically.
At school, I did well and was advised to apply to ‘Oxbridge’ but I didn’t know what it was! Attending the Sutton Trust summer school at the University of Oxford was an important experience for me. Meeting students who were ‘normal’ was demystifying. I realised I could do it too if I wanted.
My most memorable moment was trying out medical equipment including the blood pressure machine and stethoscope. I also enjoyed participating in the ethical debate.
It was nice to be with people who were like-minded and to bounce ideas with them. At the summer school, I met people who were smart and hard-working, driven to get to wherever they wanted to. It was an inspiring environment.
The summer school widened my horizons as it gave me a step into medicine and something to talk about on my personal statement. It also gave me a taste of the university life and explained the medicine application process.
I went on to study medicine at the University of Bristol and added an extra year onto my degree by intercalating in Bioethics. I left medical school with two degrees. I am now a doctor and am training to specialise in radiology.”
Salma Aslam is a Bristol graduate, doctor and Sutton Trust alumnus.