London pupils win 'life changing' scholarships to top US universities

London pupils win 'life changing' scholarships to top US universities

Three London students from a school in one of the capital’s most deprived boroughs have won places at Ivy League universities and £1million in scholarships between them.

The teenagers are pupils at Newham Collegiate Sixth Form (NCS) which runs an Ivy League programme aimed at helping pupils score top marks in the US college admissions test.

The school flies in a specialist tutor from America to help pupils, and it also took a group to America to tour universities and gave them preparation for admissions interviews.

The three teenagers will study at Harvard and Princeton from this autumn.

Harmanpreet Garcha, 18, Feyisara Adeyemi, 17, and Tasneen Hossain, 18, all come from low-income families, which means the cost of their four-year education and accommodation will be funded entirely by the universities, at a cost of around £350,000 each.

Tasneen, who turned down Cambridge to take up a place studying maths and physics at Harvard, did not speak English when she arrived in the UK from Italy in 2014, aged nine. Her family are originally from Bangladesh, her father is an Uber driver and her mother is a housewife.

She told The Times: “It has been an incredible journey. My family and I have been working on this for a long time. I have always pushed myself in my studies and they have supported me all the way.

“But even with all that effort I would not have got there without the school. They have given the type of opportunities most students from low-income families like me don’t get.”

Tasneen, who is a fan of football and Formula 1 and wants to work in F1 or become a physicist at Cern in Geneva, said she was “first and foremost incredibly happy for my parents”.

She said: “Coming from an immigrant background, a lot of people dream to be in this position and work hard to give their children the great opportunity that lies ahead of me, but my parents moved countries three to four times because they saw a spark in me.

“They didn’t force me; they didn’t say you have to apply to Harvard or Cambridge. They said put in all your effort into becoming an educated young woman, and that will make us proud enough.

“They are proud of their little girl, but there are happy tears tinged with sadness because I’ll have to move away. So really it was a bittersweet feeling.”

Harmanpreet will study engineering at Harvard. She told The Times: “When I got in, I was in disbelief for a bit. It is hard to believe that I will be actually studying at a top American university. It feels like a scene from a film, to be honest. It’s hard to take in.

“I’m definitely a bit nervous about studying with some of the brightest students in the world, but I’m looking forward to settling in and finding my community there.

“Harvard’s education is more holistic in comparison with the UK system. At university I don’t want to be limited to just one subject but rather find the links between a few different fields and learn how to apply this in real life.

“To solve problems you face in engineering, you must apply a range of skills, which I can gain from studying different subjects and expanding my horizons. I also want to be an author and the creative writing classes are something I wouldn’t find in an engineering degree in the UK.”

Feyisara is from Poplar in east London and will study computer science at Princeton.

She told The Times: “I was really pleased to be offered a place. My family are really excited for me. I’m going to miss them but it’s an incredible opportunity for me. East London and Princeton are very different places but I am confident I will adapt and have a great time.”

While studying for their A-levels, students sat US critical-thinking tests known as SATs.

Anita Lomax, Principal of NCS, said: “We push the boundaries and expectations of our students. They now believe these types of opportunities are available to them.”

It comes after as another London school that works with “brilliant” children from deprived backgrounds is set to send more pupils to America.

Pupils at London Academy of Excellence in Stratford will be able to access scholarships to US universities through the World Leading Schools Association, which the school has just joined.

Headteacher Alex Crossman said the opportunity to go to elite US universities, which are increasingly attractive to high-performing British students, is “life-changing”.