Ex-student who got MIT scholarship sets up tutor business to help others

Tafsia Shikdar who lives in Newham, has won a scholarship to the world-famous Massachusetts Institut

Tafsia Shikdar won a scholarship to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Credit: Nick Edwards

A former student who won a £200,000 scholarship to the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is hoping to inspire others to follow in her footsteps as she gets ready to start a new job as a scientist in Los Angeles.

Plaistow's Tafsia Shikdar, 21, earned a funded place on an engineering course at MIT, where astronaut Buzz Aldrin studied, three years ago.

While at the American university, the former Newham Collegiate Sixth Form (NCS) student captained the debate and ice hockey team and scored a 4.4 GPA grade.

She has now started her own tutoring and academic counselling business – Beyond Exams – which aims to help other children from underprivileged backgrounds gain access to top institutions.

Tafsia has also accepted a job as an associate scientist at Beyond Meat in LA in July.

The committed vegan, who specialises in biomaterials, said she is “very excited to begin” at the company, which specialises in creating meat alternatives.

She added: “The experience you get from living in America, from simply leaving your own bubble, be it Plaistow, London or England, is one that all young people should try to experience."

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NCS has since helped a further five students win places to Ivy League universities in the US, including three last year.

Tafsia returned to her former school to talk to Ivy League candidates while on breaks from MIT and now hopes to support social mobility in her community.

She said: “I really want my story to be an inspiration to the people from Newham. The problem here has never been talent, it has been belief."

She said Beyond Exams aims will offer free academic counselling and tutoring sessions to students in need.

“I offer sessions to talk to young people about their potential futures, and how they might go about achieving their dreams, and help them with any applications,” she added.

NCS headteacher Mouhssin Ismail said: “Tafsia is truly an inspiration to the young people of this community.

“She has not only set the standard of what can be achieved with hard work and determination, she has also given up her time to support our scholarship programme and her fellow students follow in her footsteps."