'There Is Absolutely No Reason Why Any Institution Should Be Viewed as off Limits' as Thousands of Welsh Students Embark on University Life, Education Wales Reports on Two Freshers Who Will Be Following in the Footsteps of Kings and Prime Ministers
SULMAN IQBAL and Tomasz Iwaniak's lives will change forever when they enrol at Oxford University.
Sulman is one of a handful of people to gain five A*s at A-level, while Tomasz achieved two A*s and two A grades. Tomasz's grades are all the more impressive as he is just 17 and only arrived in Wales two years ago from Poland.
It was not until the teenagers began their A-level courses at St David's Catholic Sixth-Form College, in Cardiff, that they began to believe they were worthy of a place in a world-class university. Their teachers convinced them that with hard work and determination, anything was possible.
And that is the advice Sulman and Tomasz offer to any teenager involved in the Oxbridge entry process for next year. The deadline for applications for 2011 is October 15. Last year 79 students from Wales were accepted into Oxford University, while almost 500 applied for places.
With competition so tough, St David's College in Penylan has a dedicated team of tutors who prepare students for entry exams to top universities like Oxford and Cambridge. Students are chosen to take part in the honours programme based on their GCSE results.
Sulman, 18, from the Grangetown area of Cardiff, will study law at Brasenose College, Oxford.
He said: "There is absolutely no reason why any institution should be viewed as off limits - the central point being that universities do not discriminate on the basis of class or race, but make offers based on academic ability."
To gain his place at Brasenose, Sulman had to take a national entry examination in Law called LNAT. Universities such as Oxford use LNAT as part of their law admissions process alongside A-levels and admissions interviews.
"The honours programme in St David's College really helped me," he added. "It makes you think about what you want to do and achieve and the staff advise you on how best to do it."
Sulman gained A* grades in chemistry, economics, English literature, history and politics. The new A* grade was awarded for the first time this year to students who gained at least 90%.
His success, he says, is thanks to great teachers.
"I have a lot to thank my teachers for," said Sulman. They went above and beyond what was asked of them by setting extra work, taking extra lessons and doing extra marking."
And Sulman says if it was not for the support he got during the application process, he would have found it even more daunting.
"I am the first person in my family to go to a university like Oxford," he said. "The prospect of studying my degree at such an established university is exciting but also a little overwhelming. I know I will be learning alongside some of the brightest minds in the country."
Famous former Brasenose students include Prime Minister David Cameron, actor Michael Palin and former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie. …