42 state school students admitted early to top US universities through Sutton Trust US Programme

Trucker’s son and taxi driver’s daughter amongst 42 state school students admitted early to top US universities

The daughter of a taxi driver and the son of a trucker are among 42 bright British state school students from low and middle income backgrounds to have won places and financial aid at top US universities through the Sutton Trust US Programme, it was announced today.

The students have applied via the early admissions deadline. More will be applying through the regular January deadline and will find out if they have been successful later this spring. The admitted students will join over 200 alumni of the Sutton Trust scheme, run in conjunction with the US-UK Fulbright Commission, already studying in the States.

Momena Haider, who is 18 and goes to Ousedale School in Milton Keynes, has been offered a place at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution. Momena, the daughter of a taxi driver, moved to the UK from Pakistan at a young age and will be one of the first in her family to study at university.

Sam Sheppard, who is 18 and goes to Highams Park School in Enfield, has been offered a place to study at a leading liberal arts institution, Swarthmore College. His father used to be a truck driver and now cares full-time for Sam’s mother, who used to be a playgroup worker.

The 42 students, who come from across the country, have been admitted early to 30 different institutions, including Harvard, Wellesley, Duke and Columbia. One of the admitted students has been awarded the prestigious Robertson Scholarship. 

60% are from households that earn less than £25,000 a year and 76% will be the first in their family to go to university. Between them they have already been offered £11m of financial aid from the universities over the next four years, meaning many of them will graduate with little to no debt.

150 students were selected for the 2016-17 Sutton Trust US Programme and spent a week last summer living on campus at either Yale University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The students benefited from an intensive programme of support, delivered by the US-UK Fulbright Commission over a number of months before and after their US visit.

In addition to advice on college choice and financial aid, every student is assigned a personal mentor who provides them with one-to-one support throughout the process. Most of the mentors have studied at a top US university and many are senior employees at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the programme’s founding corporate partner.

Although applications to US universities have increased in recent years – there are now over 5,600 British undergraduates at American universities –students from less advantaged homes do not necessarily have access to the same level of support and resources for US admissions as their counterparts from fee-paying schools. The Sutton Trust US Programme, now in its fifth year, encourages academically talented, low and middle income British students to consider studying at American universities.

Support for the US Programme was provided in part by a grant from the Robertson Foundation.

The programme is also made possible through support from its founding corporate partner, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, whose investment is matched by Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing who have generously supported the programme since its launch. The programme is also supported by Jerry del Missier, The Neuberger Berman Foundation and EducationUSA along with recent funders, the London Stock Exchange Group Foundation and Big Change.

Sir Peter Lampl, Founder and Chairman of the Sutton Trust and Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

“America’s leading universities are bastions of progressive values and outstanding education. Their campuses are welcoming places for international students, whatever country or social background they come from.

“I’m delighted that 42 of our brightest state school students have won places to study in the States. They will benefit from a broad and varied curriculum as well as in-depth study and with 100% funding they will graduate debt-free.

“I hope more young people will look to their success and realise that a university education in the States is well within their grasp.”

Penny Egan CBE, Executive Director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, said:

“The consistent success of this programme demonstrates the enduring appeal of transatlantic student mobility; not just to the students themselves, but also to the universities who actively seek undergraduates from very diverse backgrounds across the pond. Initiatives supported by Fulbright and EducationUSA widen access to prestigious international opportunities.”

Alex Wilmot-Sitwell, President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said:

“We are very proud of our long-standing partnership with Sutton Trust and commend their work in helping to promote educational equality and boost prospects for so many talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds. As part of our company’s focus on economic mobility, our partnership will help to change these students lives, by providing them with the skills and confidence they need to thrive in today’s competitive world.”

Applications for this year’s programme close on 22 January and can be completed online via us.suttontrust.com.


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 180 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to access to the professions.
  2. The US-UK Fulbright Commission is a not-for-profit organisation funded by both governments to promote educational exchange between the US and the UK. The Commission offers prestigious awards for postgraduate study and research in the US, and is part of the EducationUSA network, offering accurate, comprehensive, and current information about opportunities to study at accredited higher education institutions in the USA.
  3. The Sutton Trust has run UK summer schools since 1997. They offer young people from low and middle income backgrounds in year 12 – mostly 17 year-olds – a chance to get a taste of student life at a research-led university. The programme balances busy academic days with social activities and has been successful in encouraging bright state school students from low and middle income families to study at the most selective universities in Britain.
  4. Results from the first four cohorts include over 200 students enrolled at 57 different universities across 18 states and an American university abroad, accessing approximately $50 million in financial aid.
  5. Developing solutions for social and economic challenges is at the core of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s responsibility platform. Around the world, the company partners with employees, clients and stakeholders to help make financial lives better. They focus on responsible business practices, environmental sustainability, advancing opportunity in local communities through education and employability programmes and investing in global leadership development. They realise the power of their people and value differences, recognising that diversity makes them a stronger firm and allows them to better service their stakeholders. By harnessing their intellectual resources, sharing knowledge and connecting capital with need, the company is providing opportunities that effect positive change.
  6. 2015-16 saw the largest year-on-year increase of British students in the USA for over thirty years: 11,600 British students were studying in America, 5,680 of whom were undergraduates.