While many students will be looking forward to attending the university of their choice, not all will have either received the grades they hoped for or, some may have decided to go to university after the UCAS application deadline in January. For these people the UCAS Clearing system is the gateway to a university place.
Old Trident and international student Usama Salamat (Class of 2019) found himself in the position of not securing any of his university offers, but the option of Clearing opened up a place at the University of Essex, to study Economics.
When Usama didn’t get his preferred place, he was, understandably, initially upset but quickly realised this disappointment could be turned to his advantage by having a wider choice of options to study the same course. Taking a philosophical approach, that sometimes life throws you unexpected choices which turn out for the better, Usama has not only graduated from the University of Essex this summer with a 1st class Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics, he is now preparing to undertake a 2 Year MPhil Degree in Development Studies at The University of Oxford, starting in October, where he has been offered an OPP (Oxford Pakistan Programme) Scholarship.
What a fantastic example of when “things turn out better than expected!”
Usama explains “I had a great three years in Colchester and did my best to make the most of my time at university. It was incredible, both socially and academically. It is essential to get fully involved into things you have and haven’t done before; University is a great place to explore new things and build on existing skills”.
Whilst Usama remained focused on his undergraduate studies, he was also a heavily active member of both the University of Essex Cricket Club (UECC) and the University of Essex Pakistani Society during his three years. “I was consecutively nominated as the President for the Pakistani Society during my 2nd and 3rd year and also as the President of the Cricket Club in my final year. These extra-curricular experiences are extremely important, and they taught me a lot of new things, helping me enhance skills that I did not know I held.”
In his second year, Usama was asked to interview for an intern position at the University’s Human Rights Clinic which worked with Reprieve International on matters of human rights and death penalty mitigation. “This was an incredible experience where I learned a lot about matters of reform; it is a big influence in me pursuing an MPhil Degree in the area of Development Studies.”
Additionally, Usama was interviewed by BBC Radio Essex on multiple occasions, to discuss topics ranging from Diversity in Sport to conversations on topics of Human Rights.
During the final year of his studies, Usama started to consider what he might want to do next, after graduation. He applied to several universities, including the University of Oxford, to study a Masters degree. In March this year, he received the offer from Oxford. “Roughly a month later, I received an email suggesting that as a Pakistani Student going to Oxford, I would meet the requirements for an OPP Scholarship. With nothing to lose, I filled in the application form and heard back soon after, being asked to participate in an interview. I am now fortunate enough to be one of the five inaugural OPP Scholars at Oxford when I start this year.”
In making the awards, the OPP Scholarship Committee take into consideration both academic merit and financial need and applicants must credibly demonstrate their desire to contribute to Pakistan’s development through impactful research and public engagement.
“There are various other scholarships that are also available at such universities, and it is important to research deeply on these opportunities when one is applying. There is almost always something suitable for everyone.”
We asked Usama what advice he would share with Trent College pupils embarking on their A-Level study
“During your A-levels there is often a lot of pressure put on students to meet certain requirements or for example, in my personal experience, I did not receive the best final grades in my A-levels and to my surprise, I did not meet the requirements for any of the five Russell Group universities that I was originally accepted in. At this stage, I was rather stunned and extremely demotivated to take up a university degree. While I was accepted into a BSc Economics course at Uni of Essex through Clearing, I was extremely reluctant to pursue this at the time. The overarching point here is that at no moment during that time did I expect I would someday be taking up a degree at Oxford! Having learnt from those experiences, I am now a strong believer that things work out for people in unexpected ways, as long as you try to give your 100% to whatever it is that you are pursuing.”
And reflecting on his time at Trent College
“I joined Trent College Sixth Form in 2017, from a Nottinghamshire Academy Trust school. My two years at Trent College were wonderful. It was a very new experience for me, my first time long stay away from home and joining a boarding community, in Shuker House, as my family were now all in Pakistan.”
“It took no more than a few weeks to properly settle in. There was a range of pupils, I really enjoyed getting to know people from all over the UK as well as all over the World.”
“I also had some remarkable teachers that were extremely impactful on my education and on my growth as a person. Mr Omran, who was Shuker Housemaster at the time, was incredibly supportive and motivating. Other amazing teachers, specifically Mr Noble, Mrs Bolu, Miss Shamsi and Head of Sixth Form Mr Mayfield, all had a huge impact on my development whether they realised it at the time or not. They said a lot of things, whether they be directly to me, in lessons, or in the early morning assemblies – that were very moving and have stuck with me as a form of inspiration ever since.”
On top of the education, I particularly enjoyed the Sports at Trent. I was a key member of the 1st XI cricket squad, and I thoroughly appreciated all the opportunities to learn from Head of Cricket, Scott Boswell and coach Paul Johnson.”
“I played more than 40 games of cricket for the Trent College 1st XI and I enjoyed every moment of it; I was awarded my Cricket Colours at the end of year Assembly.”
“Whilst cricket was, and still is, my main sport of interest, I was also a member of the 1st XI Football team and totally enjoyed the many games in which I represented Trent.”
“For me, one of the best things about boarding at Trent was that at the end of the school day, there was a lovely family feel around the House and most people got along really well. Looking back, my time at Trent College was special. I made memories there that will remain for a long time: interhouse socials, football matches vs Blake, Wednesday nights at The Sportsman, Leavers Day, Strawberries, the whole lot! I haven’t had a chance to return to Trent since I left, but I will cherish that opportunity when it comes soon in the future.”