As applications for our US Programme open, Maria Balinska, the Executive Director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, gives potential applicants a taste of what to expect. We also hear from four students about their experiences on the programme last year.

“A life-changing adventure – that’s what we can definitely promise you on the Sutton Trust US Programme. Studying in the US can be a viable option for anyone thanks to the generous funding packages that many American universities offer applicants from low income families. If you are interested in exploring this option – no need to have made your mind up yet – apply to our programme. You’ll learn about the exciting variety of American universities and you’ll be able to visit a number of them (as well as the odd baseball park) in person during an all-expenses-paid trip next summer.

“And that’s not all. You’ll be doing all this as part of a cohort of 199 other motivated and talented young people from across the UK and you’ll be guided by advisers from the Fulbright Commission who have deep knowledge of the way higher education works in both the US and the UK.

“So if you want to learn about America and what its universities have to offer and, in the process, develop more confidence and make friends, apply to be part of the 2020 Sutton Trust US programme.

Maria Balinska, Executive Director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission

Here’s what four of last year’s participants think:

Patrick Carey, 17 (Y13)

Cardinal Hume Catholic School, Gateshead

I had no clue about the American application process before the Sutton Trust US Programme. Before starting the programme, I thought I’d never even think about attending an American university, but after experiencing it for myself and learning about the financial aid process, I was hooked. From touring the campuses to attending a Boston Red Sox vs Yankees game, every single second of my week in America was brilliant.

At our first residential, all the team leaders said the same thing: “You will make friends for life.” Most of us had our hands on our face, cringing, but 6 months later and I’m travelling around the country to visit my mates.

Aside from the social aspect, you also gain a lot of crucial information on this course—a lot. I thought I had figured out how my life was going to look after my GCSEs. I was going to apply for Cambridge, get my degree, get a job, and so on. Now, that’s just one of many plans—and probably at the bottom of my pile. The opportunities this programme has created are amazing.

My main plan is to go to my first choice US university, but if that doesn’t work out, I’m now confident that I’ll have plenty more options. If you’re still on the fence, do it. It’s your future and this programme can take you anywhere. The friends you’ll make, the knowledge you’ll gain, the experience you’ll get—it’s all completely worth it.

Maia Gray, 17 (Y13)

Christ The King College, Isle of Wight

I’m from the Isle of Wight, I live with my single mother and have ten younger siblings. I had never believed that international study was even an option for someone like me. Having always wanted to expand my world view and explore, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the Sutton Trust’s US programme.

I had never been abroad before the programme and I was worried because I didn’t know anyone on the programme. However, the cohort was so much fun that I instantly made friends and forgot my worries. The highlight of the programme was the Harvard fair. Meeting up with everyone from the past residentials, all in one place for one last time was very emotional—and the perfect opportunity for some photos!

I am planning on taking a gap year and then applying to US and UK universities next year. The programme is a life-changing experience. It broadens your horizons and offers an alternative approach to education.

Liv Bond, 17 (Y13)

New College Pontefract, Wakefield

I come from a small farming village in East Yorkshire. I applied for the programme to explore what life as a student in the US could be like and to meet new friends along the way.

The thing I think I gained most of the programme is confidence. My confidence has soared since I took part, and suddenly I feel as if I could achieve whatever I put my mind to, despite being from the “middle of nowhere”. I plan to apply for Law at Cambridge University, hoping to become a commercial barrister in the future and be the first in my family to go to university.

If you’re not sure about applying, just do it. The application process may seem daunting, but it’s worth it—I promise you. I’ve genuinely made the best of friends on this programme, and even if I decided that US study wasn’t for me, I found the confidence to follow my own path in the UK.

Dona Josh, 18 (Y13)

Carmel College, Warrington

Before starting the programme, I had so many fears! I was scared I wouldn’t make friends and I was scared people would judge me and I was scared about travelling so far by myself. My highlight of the week in the US was probably the Red Sox game. The atmosphere was fabulous, and the memories of chanting with all my new friends is a memory I will cherish forever!

More than anything, I think this programme has given me confidence. I developed confidence in learning to travel by myself, I developed confidence in meeting new people, and I developed confidence in just saying YES to new opportunities.

Although I am not going to an American university, I have chosen to apply for a year abroad with my degree. If you’re still not sure, just apply! The worst case is that you—like me—decide America is not for you. But this is the best opportunity to meet an incredible number of like-minded individuals and gain confidence.  The Sutton Trust programme enables you to explore opportunities that you once thought impossible. You get the opportunities to make friends from all over the UK and get into fierce arguments over the correct way to pronounce ‘scone’ (for the record it’s sc-OWN)!

Click here to apply now. Applications close in mid-January 2020. 

Media enquiries

If you're a journalist with a question about our work, get in touch with Hilary or Ruby. If it's out of office hours, you can call or text 07917 462 164.

E: [email protected] T: 020 7802 1660

Keep up to date with the latest news