Beyond the data: Impact of the US Programme

Beyond the data: Impact of the US Programme

Head of Programmes Laura Bruce reflects on last week’s visit to Princeton, Yale and Duke, uncovering the US Programme’s impact beyond the numbers.
Laura Bruce on April 12, 2019

In the midst of high profile reporting on admissions to leading US institutions, we are eagerly anticipating decisions of Sutton Trust US Programme students who have received and accepted offers stateside this year.

We, with our partners at UK/US Fulbright Commission, have seen incredible success so far in supporting UK state school students from low to moderate income households into leading US institutions. To date, 339 have accepted a place at 72 US Colleges and universities, with 75 at our host institutions: Duke, Harvard, MIT, Princeton and Yale.

We anticipate another fantastic year of admissions, with 47 students having already secured their place in early admissions and many individual success stories still to come.

The numbers are truly staggering and demonstrate clear impact. But behind each statistic is an individual story of success. Last week, our CEO, James Turner and I took a trip to the US to visit some of our partner institutions and explore the success of the programme, beyond the numbers.

We spent time at Princeton, Yale and Duke, meeting with alumni of the programme, admissions teams and the staff organising our US visit weeks, which take place each summer.

Image: Yale Campus.

We were immediately humbled by the stories and anecdotes highlighting the impact of the programme on both individual students and the partners that we work with.

For example, Princeton, who host our students each summer, provide accommodation, information sessions and campus tours – all at no cost to the Trust.

Speaking to why Princeton values the programme, Alexander Bustin, Deputy Dean of Admissions at Princeton, told us that the “Sutton Trust positively and significantly changed the opportunity for Princeton to work with UK state school students applying to the US” and spoke of the high engagement of Sutton Trust students once on campus: “they get so involved in relevant campus activity, such as in volunteering as tour guides to speak about the University to prospective students”

Princeton’s desire to both strengthen our partnership and engage in the social mobility conversation on both sides of the Atlantic, makes them a perfect US Programme partner. It enables students like Tori, a cohort 5 alum, to settle into life on campus and to undertake a wealth of opportunities that the universities provide.

Image: Princeton Campus

Tori told us “Looking back I will owe the rest of my career to this programme. It’s been the stepping stone to my future” whilst Elle, an alum of cohort 3 and undergraduate at Duke, said that before the programme she wasn’t even sure if she would go to university at all, let alone a leading US institution. She is now hoping to make a career in the US following her graduation this year.

Many of our alums have also gone on to take full advantage of opportunities on campus.

At Duke, Elle has set up a project to better support first generation students at the university. Elle is an example of an advocate for our mission to improve social mobility, demonstrating how the programme’s impact goes deeper than simply gaining a place at their university.

The focus on employability outcomes is an area that our alums highlighted as the biggest advantage of attending a US institution, compared to their peers who are studying in the UK.

Many of the alums we met at Duke will be undertaking internships this summer with organisations such as McKinsey in London, tech start-ups in New York and research projects in Greece. All of these activities were organised through the university, with funding available to cover the costs.

Whilst we can all agree that the US system is not perfect, there are certainly a lot of lessons and best practice to take from these approaches, particularly as UK universities begin to focus more on outcomes as well as access for students from less advantaged backgrounds. This is an area we are keen to continue to explore at the Trust, and to take up our role as a convener for our partners on both sides of the Atlantic.

For now, we will wait to hear the outcomes for Cohort 7 students and look forward to welcoming the next 200 students to the programme this weekend. Undoubtedly there will be more success stories to come…

Learn more about the Sutton Trust US Programme.

Laura Bruce | | Category: Alumni, Programmes