I’ve been the Development Intern here at the Sutton Trust since December last year, but my first contact with the Trust was when I was 17 as a student on the modern language Summer School at the University of Cambridge.
I read about the programme on an A4 sheet on a notice board in my sixth form common room and almost didn’t apply. I just wasn’t sure university was for me or if I would stand a chance at getting in. But after much deliberation, on the last day of applications I sent mine off.
I can’t express how glad I am that I sent off my application off that day. The experience completely transformed my attitude towards university. The tutorials showed me how broad and energetic studying languages could be, living alone with other students gave me a taste of independence, and meeting like-minded and ambitious students gave me a sense of belonging I didn’t expect to find. For the first time university seemed like a genuine possibility, not just something other people did.
At the application stage you can understand why some students might feel that in fact, university might not be for them. There are barriers at all stages of the application process: navigating UCAS, predicted grades, personal statements, preliminary exams. The entire process is a minefield if you don’t have anything or anyone to guide you. For the most prestigious courses like medicine, you are expected to have even more than just good academic grades. But gaining essential work experience to complement your CV is not easy, especially if your local community is already stretched and you don’t have family connections to offer help.
I was lucky. Not all students get to experience what university life will be like. Without the Summer School these barriers might have proved too hard to break and I might not have had the confidence to hit send on my application once again, this time for university to study modern languages at University College London. After graduating I saw the internship in the development team at the Sutton Trust advertised and was immediately interested in applying, because of my first-hand experience of how the charity changes lives. I’ve been an intern here now for eight months. My day-to-day work includes doing research, prepping for meetings and I am becoming increasingly involved in growing and strengthening the alumni community.
For alumni, the developments we are making are exciting. The newly refreshed online community (Sutton Trust Alumni) provides an opportunity for continued mutual support. Graduating from university isn’t the end of the story and it is reassuring that we now have a space where we can support one another, offer advice, and share our often-hard won insights.
Moreover, Sutton Trust Alumni will help alumni to give back. I know I am not alone when I say I want other young people to hear about the Sutton Trust programmes through alumni stories like my own. I don’t want them to just see a piece of A4 paper and assume university might not be for them. I want them to see the impact that the programmes make and that’s why I’m thrilled to be part of the alumni community as both an alum and a member of staff.
So, if you are reading this and you’re a Sutton Trust alum with an idea on how we can further support you, or future alumni, then get in touch with me at the alumni inbox. We might just end up having a chat!