Programme FAQ

What is the Sutton Trust?

The Sutton Trust was set up by Sir Peter Lampl in 1997. The charity champions social mobility from birth to the workplace so that all young people have the chance to succeed in life. They do this through evidence-led programmes, agenda-setting research and policy influence.

What is the US-UK Fulbright Commission?

The US-UK Fulbright Commission is a not-for-profit organisation that promotes peace and mutual cultural understanding through a wide range of postgraduate and postdoctoral scholarships for US and UK citizens and its EducationUSA service. Sutton Trust US Programme applicants are encouraged to visit our website for more information about the opportunities to study at an American university, as well as ways we support students.

How much will it cost to participate in the programme?

Costs for all residentials, accommodation and travel will be covered , as well as the cost of admissions test preparation and admissions guidance from experts in the field. The Sutton Trust will also cover some of the application costs associated with applying to the US, which will be outlined at the April residential.

What if I am not 100% sure that I want to study in the US at the undergraduate level?

We know this is a big decision, and by applying for the programme you are not committing to attending university in the US. This programme is designed to help you explore what the US has to offer, so if you are genuinely interested in learning about US higher education and culture, meet the eligibility criteria, and have considered applying for undergraduate study in the US next autumn, please apply!

I’m unsure if I want to study in the US or the UK. Can I still apply for the programme?

Yes. By applying for the programme you are not committing to attending university in the US. This programme is designed to help you explore what the US has to offer, so if you are genuinely interested in learning about US higher education, please apply!

What dates would I have to be available for the programme?

Please see the About page for the full listing of programme events and dates. Students are required to participate in all events.

What is the ACT?

Many applicants for undergraduate study in the US will be required to sit a standardised admissions test, either the ACT or SAT. Standardised tests are one way in which US universities will assess your academic potential. Sutton Trust US Programme students will take the ACT exam and the programme contains test preparation and support services during our UK based residentials, as well as funding to sit the exam. If you’d like to find out more information in the meantime, please visit the Admissions Test section of the Fulbright website.

I have already taken the ACT or SAT, does this mean I do not have to take the ACT in June?

If you have already taken either the ACT or SAT admissions test, we will discuss how this will affect your dates and requirements individually if you are selected for the programme. US universities accept both tests equally. Please ensure you mention this within your student application for the programme, as this demonstrates to us that you are very interested in applying to the US.

What are the dates of the US weeks 2020?

The week long visits to the US will likely be held between 20 July – 1 August at a leading US university. Students will be assigned to a week and should hold that period of time until we have confirmed the US week dates.

Eligibility FAQ

I am in Year 13 and plan to take a gap year. Can I apply?

The US Programme is only for students currently in Year 12 in England and Wales, S5 in Scotland or Year 13 in Northern Ireland. That being said, you are still more than welcome to take advantage of the EducationUSA resources the US-UK Fulbright Commission provides, including US study information and events.

I am resitting Year 12. Can I apply?

We welcome applications from students resitting Year 12. In the application, there is a specific question asking if you are resitting the year and if so, what the reasons behind this are. Please try to give as much contextual information as possible so that we can understand your reasons for resitting when considering your application.

I am in Year 11 or younger. Can I apply?

Thank you for your interest in the Sutton Trust US Programme. If you are not yet in Year 12, you are a bit ahead of the game for this year’s programme. Please fill out the online survey to register your interest for our 2021 programme and to be reminded when applications open in late 2020.

What age do I have to be to join the programme?

Students must be in Year 12 in England and Wales, S5 in Scotland or Year 13 in Northern Ireland to be eligible, so programme participants are typically between the ages of 16 – 18.

If my parent is currently attending university as a mature student for their first degree, am I a first generation student?

If your parent attended university as a mature student, whether or not they have yet completed their degree, you are technically not a first generation student, so please tick ‘No’. However, please use the ‘Further Context and Extenuating Circumstances’ section of the ‘Family Information’ form in the application to explain this in the text box provided. Students are not required to be first generation to participate in the programme and we accept applications from students whose parents hold degrees.

I attend a comprehensive/academy/grammar/free school, am I eligible for the programme?

Yes, if your school is funded by the government (i.e. not a fee paying school) it meets our eligibility criteria.

Can I apply for the Sutton Trust US Programme if I attend an independent school on a bursary or scholarship?

No, this programme is intended only for students from state schools, as the Sutton Trust aim to provide support to students who receive the least support from their schools. However, the US-UK Fulbright Commission would be pleased to support your interest in studying in the States in other ways. Visit their website for information about how to apply to American universities and upcoming events.

Can I apply for the Sutton Trust US Programme if I attended an independent school previously, but am now attending a state school for sixth form?

No, this programme is intended for students who have attended state school only, as the Sutton Trust aim to provide support to students who receive the least support from their schools. That said, the US-UK Fulbright Commission would be pleased in supporting your interest in studying in the States in other ways. Visit their website for information about how to apply to American universities and upcoming events.

Can I apply for the Sutton Trust US Programme if I am also applying to a Sutton Trust UK summer school?

Yes, you may apply to both, but if you accept a place on the Sutton Trust US Programme then you won’t get a place on the Sutton Trust UK summer school. This is to make sure as many students as possible benefit from the programmes.

Can I apply for the Sutton Trust US Programme if I am already taking part in another Sutton Trust Programme (such as Pathways)?

No, you can only take part in one Sutton Trust programme. This is to make sure as many students as possible benefit from the programmes.

I can’t make some of the dates of the programme. Can I still apply?

No. Applicants should agree to participate in all elements of the programme, including the events before and after the residential in the States. We will update the website with dates that are currently listed as TBC as soon as we can.

There are some aspects of the eligibility criteria that I do not match. Can I still apply?

If you fall just below the academic criteria or are unsure if you meet the household income criteria, but meet all other criteria and feel your application has other strengths, then you should still apply for the programme. Students are not required to be first generation to participate in the programme and we accept applications from students whose parents hold degrees. We will consider your applications holistically and take all aspects of your application into account. However, we cannot accept applications from students who do not attend state schools, are not in Year 12 in England and Wales, S5 in Scotland or Year 13 in Northern Ireland.

I have a complicated circumstance and am not sure if I’m eligible, who can I speak to about this?

If you are in doubt, please apply and explain your circumstances in the application form. We look at each student’s application holistically, so if you are worried you may be ineligible but are very interested, you should apply. Each year we receive applications from students with very specific and personal family or financial circumstances, so we have text boxes in the application form to give you the space to explain your situation. This allows us to understand you holistically as an applicant.

What if I was previously home schooled?

If you have been home schooled in your early school years or at GCSE, you can still apply for the programme. Please be sure to fully explain your circumstances in the Academic Profile section of the online application.

I am taking qualifications other than A Levels or Highers, such as BTECs or IB. Can I still apply?

Yes, we accept alternative qualifications, such as BTECs, for entry to the programme and welcome your application. However like US universities, we will take rigor of curriculum into account when choosing applicants. Generally speaking, the most highly-competitive US universities will seek applicants who have taken the most rigorous course of study available to them, which is generally considered to be A-levels (which can be taken alongside the BTEC Nationals), IB, Welsh Bacc and Scottish Highers. There is space in the application form to detail and explain any alternative qualifications.

I’ve recently moved to the UK and taken GCSE and/or A-level equivalent exams in another country. Can I still apply?

Yes we accept alternative qualifications. There is space in the application form to detail and explain any alternative qualifications so please try to provide as much information as possible.

What constitutes a low or middle income family?

Generally this will mean a total household income of around £45,000 or less (before taxes). If you are unsure if you meet the household income criteria, or fall slightly above this criteria and feel your application has other strengths, then you should still apply for the programme.

Do you give preference to applicants from some fields of study or have any other quotas?

Students interested in all fields and from all backgrounds are welcome to apply. However, please note that law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and veterinary medicine are only offered at the postgraduate level.

For all of these fields aside from law, most British students find courses in the UK to be shorter and more affordable and choose to study in the US short-term as part of a UK course or for their postgraduate studies/research. Students interested in law may study a related field at the undergraduate level and then return to the UK to complete a law conversion course, so the programme may still be for them, but they’ll want to consider this before applying.

However, due to the cost and length of a medical school degree, roughly 1.5% of medical school students at US universities are international. For more information, visit the Subject Specific Information page of the Fulbright website.

Why can’t I apply if I hold US citizenship?

While we understand that having citizenship does not necessarily mean students have spent significant time in the US, students do have many more opportunities open to them by holding citizenship, e.g. the possibility of federal financial aid and loans that cannot be accessed by international students. Through this programme, we hope to encourage students to consider the US who may have never thought this could be an option for them, and have little resources to help them along the way. Also, our programme works with students through the process of applying for US universities as an international student, rather than the different process of applying as a US citizen.

I hold US citizenship but I have never lived in the US, can I apply?

Unfortunately we will not consider any applicants who hold US citizenship, even if they have never lived in the US. This is so we are able to provide a unique cultural experience to students who otherwise may be unable to experience US culture.

Application FAQ

How many applications do you typically receive?

Each year, we receive around 1,000 completed applications for 200 places on the programme. We anticipate a similar level of competition this year. If you meet (or mostly meet) the eligibility criteria, we strongly encourage you to apply. If you don’t apply, you definitely will not get a place!

What is the deadline for the student application?

The student application deadline for the 2020 programme is 11:59pm on Sunday 19 January 2020. Please note that the deadline to submit the school reference form online is 11:59pm on Tuesday 21 January 2020.

Can I save my application and return to it later?

Yes, when you have created your account you can save your application at any stage and return to it at a time convenient to you. You can do this by clicking ‘save’ at the bottom of each section before leaving the page. You will only be able to submit your application when all sections are fully completed.

Why is the form so long?

The student application form helps us get to know you better and give us a better chance of knowing all of your strengths and accomplishments, and provides us context of your family, school, background and of your successes.

Both the student and school form are based on the US Common Application, an admissions application used by over 900 American institutions, and CSS Profile financial aid form. By using an application modelled after the Common Application, we will be able to follow the holistic model of admissions used by American universities. This will help inform our decision by allowing us to gain a full view of your academic performance, your successes both inside and outside of the classroom and ability to make the most of this programme. We also hope that students and schools will get in the mindset of US admissions and be able to re-use components of our application if they apply to a US university next autumn.

Why does the form ask questions about my family and financial situation?

We want to find out about your family and financial situation to fully understand the context of your achievements, so if your background has somehow limited your opportunities we will take this into account. Likewise, if you have gone to a good school with many opportunities, we want to ensure you’ve taken advantage of these. These questions are also similar to those you will find on US university financial aid forms to give the university a full picture of your family’s financial situation, in order to award you the proper amount of financial aid.

US universities take into account both parents’ financial situations when awarding financial aid and scholarships, and both birth parents are expected to contribute to the student’s educational costs. However, if you are estranged from either of your parents, do not know the whereabouts of one of your parents or if one parent does not support you financially at all, this will be taken into account by US universities. We will follow a similar policy and encourage you be completely honest and to explain any details of your financial situation in the space provided on the application form.

If I live alone, how should I complete the parent/guardian financial information section?

The Parent/Guardian section 1 is required, so if you live completely alone and support yourself, please enter ‘N/A’ for any required fields, or ‘0’ for any boxes requiring a numerical answer, and explain your circumstances fully in the ‘Further Context and Extenuating Circumstances’ section.

If my parent is currently attending university as a mature student for their first degree, am I a first generation student?

If your parent attended university as a mature student, whether or not they have yet completed their degree, you are technically not a first generation student, so please tick ‘No’. However, please use the ‘family and financial information’ section of the application form to explain this in a text box provided. Students are not required to be first generation to participate in the programme and we accept applications from students whose parents hold degrees.

Do I have to answer all of the questions in the application form?

We would like you to complete the application as best you can, and it will be to your benefit to complete the form as fully as you can as we want to get to know each student through their application. If, for example, you do not have 10 extracurricular activities, this is okay. If you skip the essay questions however, this is not OK.

What do I do if one of my parents is deceased or estranged from our family?

We ask specific questions in the ‘Family Information’ section, including these two questions, so that you can provide as much information about your family circumstances as possible. If there are other very specific issues that are not addressed directly in questions, we have provided an additional information box so you have the opportunity to provide us with any other information you feel is necessary to explain your circumstances.

What are you looking for in an applicant?

Ultimately, we are looking for students who will make the most of this excellent opportunity. See the Who Can Apply? page for information on how applicants will be selected.

Who chooses the participants?

The Sutton Trust US Programme staff will choose participants.

When and how will I be notified whether I have been selected for the programme?

You will be notified by email at the end of February if you have been selected for the Sutton Trust US Programme 2020.

I understand a video interview is a part of the application. What if I don’t have access to a smartphone, video camera or webcam and cannot submit a video interview?

Please see the full guidance document that is linked on the application form, as it answers all questions you may have about the video application. We encourage you to reach out to your teachers, family, and friends to see if they might be able to help. The video interview is crucial for staff to get to know you better, so we strongly encourage all applicants to submit one.

What tips do you have for completing the application?

We would encourage you to start the application early so you have plenty of time to complete each section. Be sure to read the questions carefully and fill in the form according to the application instructions. Make sure all parts of the application form are filled in and that you submit your application online by the deadline. Be sure to liaise with your school early to give them plenty of time to submit your reference. Double check your reference has been completed and submitted (you can see the status of this in the School Details section).

What exactly do you mean by extra-curricular activities?

US universities follow a holistic admissions process and are interested in your activities both inside and outside the classroom that is not required by your school. This can include work experience, school clubs or organisations, voluntary roles, sports, theatre, music, hobbies and interests. Activities like watching a younger sibling after school or acting as a carer for a family member are considered extra-curricular activities as well.

Will you contact my school representative to request a reference on my behalf?

No. You will input the details in your online application of a teacher, head of year/sixth from, careers advisor or other school representative that you feel can best represent you, to fill out the online reference. They will outline your academic achievements, successes outside of the classroom and your potential to succeed as an undergraduate in the US. After you have input their details into your student application, you will select to send an email invitation to this representative. When they receive this email, they will complete the teacher reference form online. Before selecting to send this invitation email, please speak to your chosen school referee to make sure they are able and willing to submit this reference on your behalf.

What should I do if I send the invitation email but my teacher has not received it in their inbox?

If your school referee does not receive the email, please take the following steps:

1. Check you have entered their email address correctly. If you have not, you should delete your reference request from your application and submit the correct details instead.
2. Make sure they check their junk mail folder. The email will have been sent from the Sutton Trust US Programme from [email protected] with the subject line “Reference request.”
3. If you have entered the email address correctly and they cannot find the email in their junk mail folder then it is likely that the security blocks on the school email system have filtered out the invitation email. In this instance, you should ask your teacher to contact us at [email protected] and we will provide them with a link to the reference form.

Who can complete the school reference form? Does it have to be a teacher?

The reference will be in support of your application and can be completed by any member of staff at your current school who knows you well enough to comment on your academic performance and personal contribution to your school. This is likely to be a current teacher, head of year, guidance counsellor, careers advisor, head teacher or deputy head, but it is up to you who you would like to select. If you feel like a teacher at your previous school would be better placed to write your reference, it is okay for your current school to collaborate with your previous school and combine these into one reference. Your current school would still be the main point of contact and the person who submits the online reference. The school reference must not be written by a family member or family friend.

How can I change my school referee?

If you have entered the referee email address incorrectly or you decide to change your referee before you have completed and submitted your student application, you will need to delete your request in the School Details section and click the button to “+ New Request” in order to enter your teacher details again.

If you choose to change your referee, please make sure you have communicated this with both your previous and new school referee.

Can I receive feedback on my application if I am not selected?

Due to the volume of applications we receive, it is not possible to comment on individual applications.

I wasn’t selected, but I still want to apply to US universities. What resources are available to me?

Don’t worry! Even if you are not selected for the programme, help from the EducationUSA team at Fulbright is still available. Take advantage of the information posted on the Fulbright website, attend an Undergraduate Study in the US seminar or webinar and come to our USA College Day event.

Is it possible to see a preview of the school reference form?

School referees can see a preview of the Sample School Reference Form to help prepare answers in advance of completing the online reference. We provide access to this in the email inviting referees to recommend the student.

Please remember that this is NOT the actual form; it is solely a preview of what the application entails. For the student’s application to successfully be completed, school referees must submit the reference form online via their invitation email.

School reference FAQ

What is the deadline for the school reference?

The deadline to submit the school reference form online is 11:59pm on Tuesday 21 January 2020.

Where can I find the school reference form?

The form can be found online, similar to the student application. School representatives will be invited by email to complete the form when the student enters their details into the student application.

Is the school reference an essential component of the application?

Yes. We require a teacher reference form to gain a greater insight into the academic and personal achievements that make you suitable for this programme. The student’s application will not be considered without the school reference form.

Will you contact the school representative to request a reference on the student’s behalf?

The student is fully responsible for ensuring this teacher completes the online form after they receive their invitation email. The student should ensure the teacher has completed the form by the deadline of 11:59pm on Tuesday 21 January 2020.

What should I do if my student has sent the invitation email but I have not received it in my inbox?

If you do not receive the email, please take the following steps:
1. Ask your student if they have entered your email address correctly. If they have not, they should delete their reference request from their application and submit the correct details instead.
2. Make sure you check your junk mail folder. The email will have been sent from the Sutton Trust US Programme from [email protected] with the subject line “Reference request.”
3. If they have entered the email address correctly and you cannot find the email in your junk mail folder then it is likely that the security blocks on your school email system have filtered out the invitation email. In this instance, you should contact us at [email protected] and we will provide you with a link to the reference form.

Who can complete the school reference form? Does it have to be a teacher?

No. The reference will be in support of your application and can be completed by any member of staff at your current school who knows you well enough to comment on your academic performance and personal contribution to your school. This is likely to be a current teacher, head of year, guidance counsellor, careers advisor, head teacher or deputy head, but it is up to you who you would like to select. If you feel like a teacher at your previous school would be better placed to write your reference, it is okay for your current school to collaborate with your previous school and combine these into one reference. Your current school would still be the main point of contact. The school reference must not be written by a family member or family friend.

Can a teacher from the student’s secondary school complete the reference?

The reference must be submitted and in the name of a sixth form school representative. We understand that students may feel a GCSE teacher would be better placed to write this reference, so it is okay for their current school to collaborate with their previous school and combine these into one reference. The current sixth form school would still be the main point of contact, and responsible for completing and submitting the reference online. The school reference must not be written by a family member or family friend.

I am a GCSE teacher completing the school reference form and there are a number of questions I cannot answer. What should I do?

GCSE teachers should not complete the school reference. The school reference should only be completed and submitted by a school representative from the student’s current sixth form. Saying that, we understand that students may feel a GCSE teacher would be better placed to write this reference, so it is okay for their current school to collaborate with their previous school and combine these into one reference. However, the current sixth form school would still be the main point of contact and the person who completes and submits the reference online.

Do I have to complete the school reference form in one sitting?

Yes. The School Reference form must be completed in one sitting. It is not possible to save answers and return to this form due to software constraints. However, we have provided a Sample School Reference Form PDF in your invitation email, showing the form in full to help you prepare your answers in advance. Please note that the PDF is a sample only. The online version of the School Reference form must be completed and submitted online by the deadline of 11:59pm on Tuesday 21 January 2020.

I am a teacher completing the School Reference form. Can I support two applicants from my school?

Yes, that’s absolutely fine. If you are supporting more than one applicant, then please ensure you are completing each reference form for the correct student.

What if I have reservations about whether this student is a good fit for this programme?

For the school reference, you will need to verify that, to the best of your knowledge, the student meets our programme eligibility criteria on our Who Can Apply page and confirm that you are willing to support them with their applications to US universities.

All school representatives must be truthful in their assessment of the student. If you are not comfortable doing so, please bear in mind that a Student Application will not be considered for the programme without the School Reference form. Therefore, if you are unable to supply this reference for your student, please inform them immediately so that the student can arrange for another referee to complete the form.

Ready to start your application?