From education to employment

Charity’s digital programme to support 2000 more disadvantaged young people into university or an apprenticeship

uni students standing outside

For the first time, the Sutton Trust’s online programme is open to direct applications from low-income young people. 

Since the pandemic, social mobility experts at the Sutton Trust have offered support through their online platform to over 30,000 students from low socio-economic backgrounds to secure a potentially life-changing place at university or an apprenticeship to pursue their dream career.  

Sutton Trust Online (STO) is a free digital programme providing support to 16- to 18-year-olds on their journey to university or an apprenticeship. It was first created at pace during the early days of the pandemic, when the charity’s usual in-person support for disadvantaged young people was no longer possible, and has since grown to become its largest programme.  

Now, for the first time, young people are able to directly apply to access the one-stop shop for students on their journey through their last two years of school or college as they make big decisions about their next steps. Split into four phases – explore, apply, prepare and succeed – students are able to work at their own pace, choose the content most relevant to them, and discover opportunities and tips that they might not have initially looked for.  

STO is open to all students in Year 12 in England and Wales, S5 in Scotland or Year 13 in Northern Ireland who attend – and have always attended – a state school or college in the UK and have 4 GCSEs at grades 6 to 9. The Sutton Trust also looks at additional social mobility criteria, such as eligibility for Free School Meals or attending a school with a low progression rate to higher education.  

This programme was developed in partnership with Bloomberg LP to support students during the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic. As the impacts of the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis continue to affect the country’s young people, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, the Sutton Trust is now able to expand the programme to help 2000 more students this year.  

At a time when schools and teachers, particularly in the most disadvantaged areas, are increasingly stretched, the online platform provides a range of opportunities for young people, including an interactive tool with admissions tests and interview modules, along with a personal statement builder software created by experts, and opportunities to develop new skills aligned with the Skills Builder Framework.  

Collaboration with sector leaders means the Sutton Trust is able to provide a range of content from university partners and other organisations, and live webinars explaining everything from what it is like to study Physics at Cambridge to managing your finances as a student. Young people are also able to apply for a personal statement mentor, to provide them with specialised support with their application, access academic AI tutoring in maths and science subjects, receive guidance in preparation for competitive medicine interviews and speak to alumni and university ambassadors through an online chat.  

Young people who have taken part in the programme have praised the support available through the platform, with one participant saying “I appreciated how easy it was to log onto Sutton Trust Online and watch videos about university life and complete activities…I managed to gain so much information regarding the daunting process of admissions, interview guidance and what my course would involve”.

The support doesn’t stop after completing STO, as the Sutton Trust also provides an alumni platform, sharing exclusive job and apprenticeship opportunities, continued advice and access to a community of thousands of alumni.   

Applications for Sutton Trust Online opened on 16th April and students will be enrolled on a rolling basis until August. Information about applying and the application portal can be found here.  

Katy Hampshire, Director of Programmes at the Sutton Trust, said:

“At a time where there are still persistent access gaps for poorer students, and many families are struggling with the cost of living, increasing the amount of support available for young people applying to top universities and competitive apprenticeships is as important as ever.  

“That is why we are delighted to be opening up direct applications to Sutton Trust Online for the first time. Alongside our in-person programmes, STO is a fantastic way for young people to benefit from expert guidance from top universities, employers and fellow students.”  

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