It's not easy to get into university - and among the barriers people face are those of finance and a lack of support.
The Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) is a charity that aims to help. At the heart of its work is the Aspiring Professionals Programme (APP), which offers work experience and mentoring for year 12 students from low-income backgrounds.
The aim is that, with support they might not have otherwise received, they become better equipped to apply for top universities and aim for prestigious professions such as banking and law.
The Student Room spoke to David Johnston, SMF's chief executive officer, and Inez, a student who worked through the 2011 programme and who is now studying Politics and Sociology at the University of Bristol, to find out more about the initiative.
David Johnston, CEO of Social Mobility Foundation:
Tell us about the thinking behind this programme
The programme is designed to help young people fulfil their potential by giving them access to opportunities that often only go to people who have friends or relatives in certain professions or whose families can afford to pay for such opportunities.
Successful applicants are given a programme of mentoring from a professional in their area of choice, internships, university application support and skills development to support them into and through university.
We currently offer opportunities in accountancy, architecture, banking and finance, business, engineering, law, media, medicine, politics, science and technology as well as opportunities for those who don’t know what they want to do yet.
How do people apply?
The application process is a straightforward: an online application form which can be completed at www.socialmobility.org.uk. The deadline is 21 January 2013.
How successful has this project been?
In the last five years, 53% of the university destinations of participants have been Russell Group universities and we are now seeing some of the earliest students we worked with get employment from top city firms.
Do you plan to extend the project beyond its current cities?
Although this programme is for young people in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Nottingham, in February we will be launching the application processes for residential programmes which you can apply for from anywhere in the UK to undertake internships in London in your summer holidays.
Inez, a student from the 2011 Aspiring Professionals Programme
What made you apply to take part in the Aspiring Professionals Programme?
As a student who knew relatively very little about the potential careers I could pursue, the programme presented a multitude of opportunities to gain valuable insight and draw from a strong network of support and information.
What did the programme provide that your school was unable to provide?
The programme was able to provide me with a direct link to industry and a useful resource in the form of a professional mentor who worked in the field I was interested in. Since being on the APP in 2011, I've had the opportunity to do three internships with The Observer, The Spectator and at Ed Miliband's offices.
I've also attended a number of career-related events such as CV writing and personal branding workshops and events related to the sectors I was interested in, such as a youth debate that took place regarding the 2011 alternative vote referendum.
How do you think the programme has helped you overall?
Overall, the programme has helped in raising my awareness of the vast array of options there are to choose from when considering which career path to pursue. Also, through the internships I was able to develop a clearer understanding of how different professional environments operate as well as gaining invaluable first-hand exposure to the field of my interest.
Want to find out more? Visit the Social Mobility Foundation website to see whether you are eligible for the Aspiring Professionals Programme.