An Academy First: Off To Harvard!

We received some excellent new last week Friday when we were informed that Daniel Ayane, one of our Year 13 students, had made BDA history by becoming the first student to gain a place at one of the top Ivy League institutions in the world – Harvard University!

We caught up with Daniel to talk about his achievement:


Daniel, fantastic news and congratulations! How did you and your family feel when you were made the offer?

So happy, honestly! My family were too because they provided quite a bit of financial aid. Also the university is so great, so of course, they were really pleased for me.

How did you go about applying to such a prestigious institution?

Initially I wanted to apply to places in America to broaden my choices, and through BDA, I was put into  contact with a company called A List Education. They help state-school children get into the States in order to pursue a career or to study.

Why America?

I really wanted to go to America because everything is bigger! And particularly, for the career I’m chasing in engineering, the salary is significantly higher over there. For instance, the salary for someone in my field in the UK doesn’t really exceed £60k per year, whereas in the States, I could be earning up to £200k! I think I’d also be suited to the fast-paced lifestyle over there.

What was the application process like and what did it entail?

The process is very long! In fact, I’d say the process was equivalent to doing an extra A-Level as you have to dedicate so much to it. You have to do an exam, which you’re only given 3 opportunities to pass. Luckily I did well enough to be accepted.

I also had to write essays which were about 500 words long and complete a personal statement. The whole process takes about a year to complete, but with the help around me, I completed it in about 6 months. It was intense and also quite an expensive process which costs in the thousands at least.

Where there any funding schemes available to assist with your application?

There’s a programme called the Ark Scholars Programme which basically paid for the application. They will be running the scheme again this year.

What other universities did you apply for?

I applied to about 12 Universities;

Imperial, Cambridge, Bristol, Bath, Brunel and in America, it was MIT, Harvard, Colombia, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Colorado Boulder. I was offered a place at Johns Hopkins and Colorado Boulder.  Unfortunately, the other Ivy League Universities  did not consider me, but I don’t mind because I’ve now been offered a place at the best!

So how do you feel about relocating and settling in a new country?

I’ve been to America three times now, so I know a little of what to expect. For me, it’s like being in the UK, but on a bigger scale. I think that’s the best way to summarise it. There are students who go from places like Somalia to Harvard, and I feel their change would be much bigger than mine, so I don’t think my change would be that drastic. Also, I’ve already met a couple of people from Facebook who are going there.

That all sounds exciting, but now you have your A-Levels around the corner – what grades are you expected to achieve in order to secure your offer?

It’s not really like the typical process of securing a specific set of grades. The condition for accepting your offer is that your grades don’t drop significantly. There’s no minimal grade per se – I’d describe it as “a very loose conditional offer”. As long as I don’t drop from 3 A*s to 3 Cs, I should be fine.

We’re confident you will be fine. So what would you specialise in, and where do you see yourself afterwards?

It’s going to be engineering, and then I’d want to pursue a Masters degree afterwards hopefully at MIT, which just so happens to be down the road from Harvard. I’d love to work for NASA or Boeing specialising in Aerospace engineering.

Are you going to miss BDA? Being in the UK?

[laughs] There’s always Skype!

Who would you like to give thanks to for coming this far?

Everyone who works at A List and everyone at BDA. If I could name a few; Mr Whitlock, Mr Lawrence, Mr Mapia, Mr G. From A-List, there’s Charlotte, Ed, Anita…there are too many people. It’s takes a lot of man power to bring something like this about.

If you could say one thing to all of them collectively, what would it be?

The obvious thing to say would be Thank You. I don’t want to say something clichéd, but, my life is different because of you. It sounds really clichéd and cheesy but it’s the truth. I’m very grateful


We hope Daniel’s story serves an inspiration to all, and shows that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. We wish him all the best in his upcoming examinations and all future endeavours after BDA.