UK News Four students at east London sixth form get into top US universities
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Four students from some of the most disadvantaged areas of London have been awarded scholarships, worth around £1million, to America's most prestigious universities.
The students, all from an inner-city East London sixth form, will swap the likes of Tower Hamlets, Beckton and Dagenham for the halls off US Ivy League universities such as Princeton, Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
With only 160 places and thousands of applicants worldwide, the four students, Lennox Keeble, Catherine Lowe, Xuan Nguyen, Umar Azad, all attend Newham Collegiate Sixth Form (NCS), in East Ham, east London, had around a 330-1 chance of sealing one of the much sought-after places.
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And they will be further boost because as the students come from low income families, the cost of their four-year education and accommodation, around £250,000, will be funded entirely by the universities.
It is the third year the high achieving sixth form have helped students win a place at a top US university.
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The top 10 universities in the world according to the Times Higher Education guide 2020
1. University of Oxford - England
2. California Institute of Technology - America
3. University of Cambridge - England
4. Stanford University - America
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology - America
6. Princeton University - America
7. Harvard University - America
8. Yale University - America
9. University of Chicago - America
10. Imperial College London - England
Former students Tafsia Shikdar in 2017, and Mohammed Isuf Ahmed last year, both accepted scholarship places to MIT - which regularly ranks among the top five universities in the world.
Lennox Keeble, from Dagenham, whose carer mum Ifatu, 49, fled Sierra Leone during the civil war, is off to Princeton after turning down MIT.
He has four siblings and his mum, who he describes as his 'hero', looked after the elderly in care homes during the coronavirus.
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Lennox said: 'The streets of Dagenham and the hallowed halls of Princeton are very different places but I do not see it as a big deal.
'I will adjust, make friends. I am looking forward to it massively.
'Einstein taught in room 302 Frist Campus Center at Princeton, that's what inspired me to want to study there when I had the opportunity to visit with my Sixth Form.'
Catherine Lowe, from Tower Hamlets, has an unconditional offer to study at man on the moon Buzz Aldrin's former university MIT.
The 18-year-old, whose dad, Steve, 60, is self-employed and whose mum, Belinda, 56, is a housewife, hopes to major in physics.
She said: 'My dad left school at 17 even though he was very bright so I guess I am helping to fulfil his potential as well as my own. He is very proud of me as you can imagine.
'I think the moment I started to believe this could happen was when we got the chance to travel to these universities. It seems like a dream but when you are there it gives you the belief you can make it.'
Xuan Nguyen, 18, from Beckton, has accepted an unconditional offer from Harvard after being rejected by Cambridge to study natural sciences.
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He scored 790 out of 800 on level 2 maths SAT test. Xuan has also represented GB at Volley Ball.
He will major in civil engineering. After university he hopes to focus on tackling global environmental issues.
He said: 'The level of support we got at NCS is unparalleled and it is why all four of us are going to the top US universities, no questions. Yes, we probably would have done well anywhere, but not this well.
His dad Duc Trong, 55, works as a machinist in a factory. His mum My Loan, 56 is a housewife.
Bright Umar Azad, 18, lives with his admin assistant mum Munni Akhter older sister and younger brother.
He will swap Tower Hamlets for Harvard next September and will major in chemistry.
He said: 'When I found out I had been accepted it was a real surreal moment.. My mum had just come back from Bangladesh so she was self-isolating with her mother.
'It was just me and my sister in the house. I called her in and told her and we both just hugged. I called my mum straight away. She was incredibly proud.'
The four students were all part of the US University Preparation Programme run by the college, which has its own dedicated member of staff overseeing all overseas applications and providing mentoring advice and guidance.
They also include a paid for tour of the Ivy League Universities in the US last year which all four successful scholarship students attended.
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All the support is offered to students for free, in contrast to an agency in the UK who are charging richer families up to £20,000 per pupil to guide families through the American application process.
While studying for their A Levels, later cancelled due to the coronavirus, students sat US subject specific and critical thinking and aptitude tests known as SATs - paid for by their sixth form.
They passed with flying colours thanks to support from a specialist tutor who is flown in from the US and paid for by NCS before acing interviews, leading to the scholarship offers.
NCS headteacher Mouhssin Ismail said: 'To have students from some of the most disadvantaged boroughs in London win full scholarships to Harvard, Princeton and MIT is testament to the hard work of the students and their teachers.
'To know their lives will be enriched and changed forever is a great feeling.
'NCS was set up to push the boundaries of what is possible and we tell our student every day that they can study at the most prestigious universities, lead the most high-profile organisations and join the highest ranks of politics.
They are beginning to believe, because they are seeing it is possible and with time this will become the norm.'
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