Student in a Million 2012: vote for the winners!


Following a year of explosive growth, The Student Room smashed the 1 million member milestone on 24 July 2012

To celebrate the amazing support the community has received from students and to give something back, we started a search for the most inspiring student stories of 2012

We’ve been looking for students who are literally one in a million! 

We asked you to nominate the most inspirational students you know and we've received an incredible response. It's been truly humbling to hear so many amazing stories.

Now our in-house judging team has decided on the shortlists for each of our three awards, it's time to choose the winners of the Student in a Million awards, and you can help.

Below, you'll find the 11 shortlisted students and their stories, as told by the people who nominated them. Read through them all and use our Student in a Million voting form to have your say on the student stories that inspire you. 

Voting will close at 10am on Friday 7 December, when the public vote will be added to the votes of our four TSR judges. The winners will be announced in the week commencing 10 December. 

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Student in a million

Category: Against All Odds

The winner of this award will be a student who has defied adversity. It will be someone who - when an obstacle is placed in their path - does not give in but works even harder. 


Lana Jennifer Maartens
nominated by Christina Stirling

"Lana was in the second year of an English and Creative Writing course at the University of Salford when she experienced stomach pains and had to be rushed to hospital. 

"She underwent major abdominal surgery and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She has since undergone further surgery and months of gruelling chemotherapy and is experiencing side effects like joint pain, extreme fatigue, cognitive deterioration and nausea. Throughout this time she has kept a online blog to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and has given other cancer sufferers advice and encouragement.

"Lana has recently had further major surgery: a full hysterectomy and bowel resection resulting in a permanent stoma. She is due to start another intensive course of chemotherapy within the next month. 

"Even while recovering she has managed to keep up to date with her coursework and has even attended some lectures. She has maintained her studies and have received excellent grades for the coursework handed in during this period. Her family, friends, university staff and acquaintances are inspired by her courage, ambition and positivity."

Ria and family

Ria Sarrington
nominated by Stuart Waterman

"Ria and her one-year-old son had to move away from her hometown of Luton when she was 21 because of domestic difficulties which she knew would affect her and her son’s future. Ria and her son moved into a refuge run by Women’s Aid. Ria wanted to give her son a better quality of life and expressed her interest in working with numbers. With support from the refuge, she was advised to look into the vocational AAT Accounting Qualification. With no previous finance experience Ria started studying AAT in 2008, full-time at Milton Keynes college.

"Five weeks into her studying Ria realised she was pregnant with her second child. Ria continued studying full-time right up until her second child was born. After her second child was born Ria went back to college to complete AAT Level 3, and then went on to get an interview and a job at Deloitte LLP, one of the largest and most prestigious accountancy firms nationwide. Ria now works within the Accounts Receivable Team as a Finance Assistant.

"Ria’s eldest son was diagnosed with Dyspraxia, ADHD and Asperger’s in early 2012 after behaviour issues were noticed. As a result, Ria now works part-time and dedicates a lot of time researching the disorder and ensures that he has the best possible care.

"Ria is an inspiration to others, illustrating that no matter where you come from and what you have to overcome, if you work hard and put your mind to something you can and will succeed."


Michael and Dan Smith
nominated by Philippa Walker

"Michael and Dan Smith are twin brothers who dramatically lost their sight while at university. Both suffer from Leber’s Optic Neuropathy, an extremely rare condition for which there is no known cause or cure.

"Michael lost his sight in a matter of weeks while in his first year at Bart's and the London School of Medicine in 2009. Because the pair are identical twins, Dan was told he had a 60% to 70% chance of also going blind – a likelihood he describes as a “dark cloud” that hung over him during his first two years at the University of Bristol. He had been preparing for his second year exams last Easter when he began to struggle to see through his left eye. Within two weeks his near-perfect vision started to rapidly deteriorate. The twins now have just 7% of their sight left and can see shadows in their peripheral vision.

"Determined to think positively, the brothers have continued to study. Michael is in his final year at King’s College London and recently won a place on the Morgan Stanley summer internship program. He wants to enter Environmental and Energy law. Dan is in his final year at Bristol and has a graduate job at the FSA, starting next September.

"They hit the headlines in February when they cycled 570km from London to Amsterdam to raise money for charity. Their cycle challenge raised nearly £18,000 for Blind in Business, a charity which helps blind and partially sighted people into work through their training and employment services.

"They have taken on a number of additional fitness and charitable challenges. Michael competed for Team GB in the B1 blind football at the Paralympic Games. The twins are soon to have Paralympic cycling trials with British Cycling with a view to training for Rio 2016.

"Both the twins are so positive in their outlook. Despite the huge hurdle of losing their sight, they remain fun-loving, outgoing and have turned their experiences into a positive through their charitable endeavours."

Jake Havan

Jake Haven
nominated by Steph Hall

"Jake has had kidney problems since he was two. He has been at Fareham College for the last two years studying BTEC Extended Diploma Business. Over the last summer holidays, Jake had to have a kidney transplant due to renal failure. During this time he developed diabetes and a rare form of cancer, from which he has since been given the all-clear.

"Jake returned to the college as normal after his transplant and is on dialysis four times a day, which he does himself.

"He was rewarded for his positivity by achieving the top grade of triple distinction star. As a result of the care he has received, Jake wants to change career direction and continue his studies at the College in Health and Social Care to give back to other people.

"Jake is an inspiration to his peers and elders. The maturity and positivity he has shown throughout his treatment is astonishing and he is never seen without a smile on his face."


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Greatest Achievement

The winner of this award will be a student who has achieved something very special; someone who has gone above and beyond the norm. 

Jake Harvey

Jake Harvey, 21
nominated by Carol Russell

"Jake has gone above and beyond during his time as a student to ensure that his CV was full of experience. While studying full-time for a degree he set up a media production company which covered a Blue Square North football team twice weekly, gave up recreation time to visit the local area covering events for a door-to-door magazine and then writing up the articles to be published on a monthly basis.

"Jake also made himself well-known and available to his tutors which in turn lead him to opportunities of work experience at places such as Sky Sports and the BBC.

"I find Jake inspirational as he is full of drive and passion for reaching his goals. He understands that opportunities have to be worked for and do not just land on a plate. He has given up a lot of his own time to do things for others on a voluntary basis so that he is able to gain more experience in his degree area."

Tom Bleasby

Tom Bleasby, 16
nominated by Zoe Eddleston

"After volunteering for The Forgotten Children's Foundations Charity a few years ago, Tom had to stop volunteering as much due to exams and revision. He recently learned that the charity had come to a standstill. The founder was extremely ill and couldn't carry on running the charity. Tom stepped in despite exams and directed the charity. At the age of 16, he is setting up incredible fundraising events, managing all accounts and working with little or no help.

"Tom wants to be a politician. He's a fabulous leader and would do the things that are right. He cares about people and takes an interest in other people's lives, even if no one takes an interest in his. He has dedicated his life to helping others and making their lives better and I’m proud to call him my son. He deserves this award because his actions weren't for his own personal gain, they have been for others."


Tahmina Hadi, 16
nominated by Tamanna Moushumi

"Tahmina received an outstanding eight A*s and two As at GCSE this year. She is an amazing inspiration as she also became a published author at the age of just 15, under the pen name of Mina B Muhammad.

"I think that publishing a novel is amazing and that didn't get in the way of her getting such amazing GCSE results too. The family was proud when the book, See Red, was published and now they are even prouder that she has achieved excellent results too."

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TSR Superstar

The winner of this award will be a member of The Student Room who used the site to make a positive difference to the lives of others.


nominated by Gemma Rowlands

"Linda (DaisyDaffodil) has a lot of health issues and struggles with her anxiety. She is also a young carer and looks after her mum and her sister at home. She has recently returned to uni and, although every lecture/meeting is terrifying to her, she never gives up and continues to attend on a daily basis.

"I have experienced anxiety in the past and, unlike Linda, I run away. She faces her problems head on, and is now a moderator on TSR to help other people overcome their problems. The fact that she has so much going on in her life but still takes the time to volunteer to help others is amazing."


nominated by Joe Mullally

"While studying medicine at the University of Sheffield, Jeremy (Vulpes) created a website called UniReq that enables students to input requirements to tell them if they were eligible to apply for a course. This program will greatly help a number of students apply to universities ensuring they meet the entry requirements.

"This website has now been used by applicants from 651 cities across 75 countries, which is a phenomenal achievement considering the program has only been around for 11 months.

"Not only has this candidate developed this program but also helped many on The Student Room through the forums. An active and knowledgeable member, Jeremy is also a personal statement helper truly showing his altruism by reviewing the personal statements of many hopeful applicants. I'm sure there will be many an applicant who owes this candidate a great deal."

nominated by Thomas Ritchie
"Minerva is an absolute star on The Student Room. Her knowledge of university applications and UCAS is incredible and she spends so much time giving out this information to applicants in need year after year in the universities/UCAS section of the forum.

"The effort that goes into the megathreads Minerva creates in the UCAS forum throughout the year goes well beyond what would be expected from any member of the mod team or wider community on TSR. I can't begin to imagine the number of people who have benefited from her advice in the megathreads and also from the advice given to them in their personal threads.

"Minerva's advice was extremely beneficial to me when applying to university myself. She had input to so many threads that detailed every aspect of the application process and beyond. If it wasn't for her, I and probably many other applicants would be clueless about the application system."