Teenager turns down Harvard to accept scholarship at top US university

Mohammed Isuf Ahmed with Newham Collegiate principal Mouhssin Ismail. Picture: Mark Soanes

Mohammed Isuf Ahmed with Newham Collegiate principal Mouhssin Ismail. Picture: Mark Soanes - Credit: Mark Soanes

A teenager who was rejected by the University of Cambridge has turned down a place at Harvard to follow in the footsteps of space pioneer Buzz Aldrin.

Mohammed Isuf Ahmed, from Aldgate, had the enviable task of choosing between the two of the world's top universities.

He plumped for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who offered him a £250,000 scholarship to study physics and aerospace engineering.

As well as the astronaut, MIT counts former UN general secretary Kofi Anan and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu among its alumni.

Earlier this year, Mohammed was among a select group of students from Newham Collegiate Sixth Form, East Ham, who travelled to the US for a tour of the country's prestigious Ivy League universities.

Prior to the visit, the sixth form paid for a teacher who specialises in preparing students for America's SAT exam to travel to London to tutor pupils.

Mohammed passed the test, which marks students in aptitude and critical thinking, with flying colours despite also having to study for his A-levels in maths, further maths, physics and chemistry.

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His American scholarship offers came just weeks after a rejection letter from Cambridge's Corpus Christi College.

The 18-year-old said: "I got rejected by Cambridge at the beginning of January and I was heartbroken.

"It was my dream to go to a life-changing university and I honestly didn't think I would get into the US universities if I couldn't get in here.

"But then the MIT letter came and then Harvard. That was unbelievable.

"I have decided on MIT because it is the best university in the world for aerospace engineering."

He was inspired to apply to the American universities after former Newham Collegiate pupil Tafsia Shikdar was accepted to MIT in 2017 and added: "I know this will totally transform my life. It feels like I have won the lottery."

Newham Collegiate principal Mouhssin Ismail said: "This is the next step in our evolution. Our students are now looking beyond the Russell Group universities, beyond Oxford and Cambridge, beyond the UK.

"To have the choice between the two best universities in the US is not only an incredible achievement for Mohammed, it is also a marker for every student at the NCS of what can be achieved."