Imperial College London

Mentoring programme provides support to local Black A-Level students

by

Abeku Koomson

Abeku Koomson, fifth year medical student and mentor on the programme

A new programme pairing Imperial student mentors with Black A-Level students aims to remove barriers to top-tier universities.

With Insight Education's flagship mentoring programme, Insight2Uni, supports high potential Black-heritage A-Level students with a structured programme of support from relatable Black-heritage mentors. 

As part of a new collaboration with Imperial College London, ten Imperial undergraduate students will act as mentors to 20 pupils in year 12 at London state schools. As part of the mentoring, the Imperial students will offer authentic guidance and invaluable insights into applying to and studying at a leading university.  

The new collaboration, an initiative by the College's Outreach department, supports the College’s aspiration to double the intake of Black home students by 2025, as part of the Access and Participation Plan.  

We spoke to some of the mentors on the programme, fifth year medical student Abeku Koomson and second year medical student Meley Gdey, to find out more. 

Why did you sign up to be a mentor on the Insight2Uni programme? 

Abeku: “I signed up to be a mentor on the Insight2Uni programme because when I was applying to university I was in the same position as the mentees. I am from a black ethnic background and I attended a low-performing state school. When I first applied to university I did not have any mentor or anyone to guide me and as a result I got rejected by all of the universities that I applied for.  

“The second time I applied I had a mentor, and it made a dramatic difference. She helped me with my personal statement, entrance exam preparation and interview preparation. If it was not for my mentor, I probably would have not received an offer. Because I have experience first-hand how impactful having a mentor can be, I really want to help students the same way I was helped. This type of support when applying to universities is readily available to most students who attend private schools and many underprivileged students are lacking this much needed support.” 

Meley: “I signed up to be a mentor on the Insight2Uni programme because it’s an opportunity I wish I had when applying to university. The application process was a long and difficult one and I wanted someone with experience to ask questions to and ease my worries about applying to such a competitive course.” 

What do you hope your mentee gets out of the mentoring? 

Abeku: “I hope that my mentee can use this scheme to make their university application more attractive and increase the chances of them attending top universities. I would also like them to learn some skills such as organisation and time management.” 

Meley: “I hope my mentees can feel more confident in their skills and get a better understanding of university applications, admissions tests, student finance and the student experience.” 

What do you wish you’d known when you were in year 12 that you’d like to share with your mentee? 

Abeku: “I wish I knew all the other options that were there for me. When I was in year 12 I had a tunnel vision for Medicine. I think this is because of my background and the school I attended, the only successful career my parents and I knew of were the typical ones – doctor, lawyer or engineer. These were the only options that I thought I had. I had no exposure to other industries like investment banking, consulting, computing, finance, actuary etc.” 

Meley: “When I was in Year 12, I wish I had known that having a balance between application and my studies is very important and juggling both can be quite intense - especially with Medicine, as the application process begins much earlier and, in my experience, ended later compared to my peers. I think a lot of students may be in the first generation of their family to go to university and may not have anyone to ask about grey areas.  

“Something else that troubled me during applications was that I was from a low-income household, and I couldn’t afford to pay for courses that helped students tailor their applications or study for admissions tests or the fees to even sit the admissions tests. Hopefully, during this programme I can signpost mentees to resources and support regarding finances as well.” 

Why do you think role models and mentoring are important? 

Having a role model is important because it makes what sometimes seems impossible, possible. Meley Gdey Second year medical student and mentor on the programme

Abeku: “A role model is important as it helps the student to develop a sense of self and gives them confidence that it is possible to do well and reach their goals. Representation is so important for self-confidence, having a mentor who looks just like you and had a similar upbringing can really make a difference to how students respond and engage with their mentors. 

“Mentors can play a central role in shaping a young person’s career. Mentors can use their experience to provide a template for success which the mentee can use to help visualise their own goals and point them in the right direction.” 

Meley: “I think mentoring is important because having a guide makes the whole process a lot smoother, eases mentees’ fears and worries surrounding university and gives students another source of support and someone to connect with during low points in the application process, for instance rejections or an interview that perhaps hasn’t gone very well. Having a role model is also important because it makes what sometimes seems impossible, possible. It allows applicants to truly believe that they have what it takes to secure a place on their chosen course.” 

Broader perspectives 

Britney, a year 12 student currently on the programme who wants to pursue a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine), said: “I joined the programme because I hope to develop a broader perspective on career options and university life. Additionally, I believe having a mentor would help me develop strategies for dealing with both personal and academic issues and how I can manage them together effectively. Having another person that I know only wants the best for me and to see me succeed will definitely motivate me to do better than my best.” 

Imperial students interested in being a mentor should fill out an expression of interest form and they’ll be contacted when the next recruitment drive starts. Students can also find out more information about being a Recruitment and Outreach ambassador and email the team for more information. 

We particularly encourage students from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds to become ambassadors, as well as home fee status students from state school backgrounds, as they are underrepresented at this level. 

Reporter

Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
Communications and Public Affairs

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 3970
Email: joanna.wilson@imperial.ac.uk

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Students, Equality, Education, Careers, Diversity, Comms-strategy-Inclusive-community, Outreach
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