2023 saw us launch our Totum Bursary programme, designed to provide financial support to talented undergraduates from less advantaged backgrounds. We were delighted to speak to our two bursary students, and catch up with them about their studies and how the bursary has helped them.

At Totum, we believe that the firms that thrive are those with the most diverse teams. But true diversity means helping people from all backgrounds get a foot on the career ladder. That’s why our Totum bursary is designed to support students get into, or remain at, university when they might otherwise not be able to do so.

Working in conjunction with the Social Mobility Business Partnership and EY Foundation, we are committed to supporting students from low income backgrounds into successful careers in business.

Applications for our 2024 Bursary Scheme are now open, with £2,000 on offer for students looking to commence a degree in September 2024. To give you a flavour of how our bursaries can help, we spoke to our 2023 winners: Iaya and Tonaya. 

Iaya H., studying Law and Politics, Cardiff University

I’ve always been interested in law. I’m argumentative, bossy and I enjoy helping people, so my family have always told me I’d make a good lawyer. When I took my GCSEs, I didn’t really focus on subjects that led towards law, but when I started college I applied for the Sutton Trust Pathway to Law to see if I really wanted to do it as a career.

I loved doing the pre-reading for the programme and I found the courses fascinating. One of the lead lecturers made me argue against something I personally believe, which was a good lesson – you’re not always going to agree with the case. Enjoying how complex law can be and the morality around it made me want to investigate more.

As part of the Sutton Trust pathway, I took part in work experience with the Social Mobility Business Partnership. They are very good at sending you opportunities, which is how I found out about the Totum bursary.

From applying to having my interview meeting with the Totum team, I learned so much. It was the first time I ever did an interview with a business. That interview prepared me for what is to come – when I apply to firms I’ll have interviews and assessment centres – so it was a valuable experience. You only get better at interviews the more you do.

I also spoke to people at Totum about their careers and how they got into the jobs they do. I learned about networking on LinkedIn, advice on careers and more. Learning from others’ experience is very interesting.

I decided to study Law and Politics at Cardiff University, which is where I’m from. At first, I worried I might miss out on some things by not going to a different city, but I’m loving it. I’ve met so many people and had so many interesting conversations. I love my course and the university from the bottom of my heart. I thought an apprenticeship might have been better for me, as I struggled in school and college, but university has helped me develop so much. There is so much more to being a student than just your degree.

For anyone thinking of applying to the bursary – say what you really mean and think on your application. There will be 500 people saying the same thing, so put something down that really speaks to you and makes you stand out as a person. And do your interview prep! I thought about every question I could be asked and how I would answer it.

University has built my confidence. I’ve known for ages that I want a career as a barrister, but university has reaffirmed that. I’m already looking at where I can sit my bar exams.

Tonaya D., studying International Business, Finance and Economics, University of Manchester

My A Levels were nothing related to what I’m studying now. I actually did psychology, maths and Spanish. However, I built my interest in business through a pre-university programme with the Social Mobility Foundation. They help students like me get work experience – I did mine with JPMorgan.

My time at JPMorgan helped me to get a taste of what it’s like to work in finance in the City. I shadowed professionals in two different areas. The first was trading, which wasn’t really for me. However, the second was in commercial banking and I really enjoyed learning from my mentor and seeing how the job worked.

I found out about the Totum bursary through the Social Mobility Business Partnership’s mailing list, where they send out different opportunities. As it is for students looking to work in business or finance – my chosen areas – I applied.

Totum helped make me more comfortable throughout the application process. I was quite nervous about the interview stage, as I had never done one before. However, when I found out the questions were more about getting to know me, it put me at ease.

I also enjoyed getting to know the Totum team last year. Coming into the office and meeting everyone was helpful. There are stereotypes of the corporate world, but the relaxed and helpful nature of the team made me less intimidated. I could see myself working there!

I am studying International Business, Finance and Economics at the University of Manchester. I knew I had an interest in these areas, but I wasn’t sure which I particularly wanted to go into, so I decided to keep my options open by choosing this course and studying all three. I’m using my first year to establish which I like better and then I’ll look to specialise in my second year. So far, it has been great – I’m loving the fact I can study so many different areas at once.

The bursary has definitely helped me with having to think less about my financial decisions. Being from a low-income family, I’m always looking to save my money and have to think a lot about what I buy. One of the first things I bought with my bursary was a new iPad, which contains all my university work. The bursary also meant I was able to pay deposits for housing in advance. If I didn’t have the bursary, I would have to think about my finances way more. It has helped me with that strain.

I advise someone applying to the bursary to be truthful and honest. I really appreciated the interview process being more about me as a person, who I was and why I wanted the bursary. It sounds a cliché, but it really works.

If you are interested in applying for Totum’s Bursary you can apply online here or for further information, contact [email protected]