Alaa - scaled down

Alaa Lafta

UCL | English Literature

The Dickie Chan Crowd Scholar


From the Trustees

Born to Iraqi immigrants and raised in London, Alaa excels academically and writes both poetry and prose in order to explore and express her identity and the multiculturalism she lives every day. She is precocious, big-hearted, and introspective. As a result of her extraordinary achievements, Alaa has been named The Dicke Chan Crowd Scholar.

Please read on to learn more about Alaa - you can find her application essay, short answer response, grades, and teacher recommendation below. 


  Subject Area

English Literature

 Area of Interest

Writing & Poetry

 Prospective Uni


Career Aspirations


Application Essay

My father has a stack of Arabic poetry books that he keeps behind an old fireplace in our house. They came with him in his suitcase when he sought refuge in London from the war-torn country he left behind, crumpled pages and tattered spines layered between the sleeves of his shirts.


I found them first when I was about eleven or twelve years old. I had scoured the pages almost desperately, hoping to make sense of the black strokes and diamond-dotted letters that my lips struggled to pronounce. I remember laying on the sofa for close to an hour, still in my school uniform, wishing that the words would just unravel themselves and form the familiar sentences that my mother still yells at me from the kitchen. Back then, however, my comprehension of the Arabic language was limited to the irritated ‘yallah!’ that my cousins always shouted whenever I took too long to get dressed, the curse words whispered between slips of laughter at night during family sleepovers, and the joyful shriek of ‘bibi!’ every time I visited my grandmother.


I once read that people form an assumption of who you are in the first seven seconds of meeting you. I have met countless versions of myself over the years—the young child who obsessed over glitter, the almost-teenager who constantly pulled her hijab down to cover her fringe, the almost-adult who laughs too loudly in the cinema—and I have yet to fully know what my identity entails.


Even now, the words I speak to my family are clumsy and the pronunciation too harsh—I still find myself googling Arabic phrases on my phone whenever there are visitors, relying on an app to teach me my mother’s language. And so, I write about her—my mother. I write about how she taught me to remove red stains from carpets and how to straighten my shoulders so that others would listen to me. I write about my father who likes to learn languages in his own time and spends his weekends searching for bargains in the car boot sale. I write about my grandmother who believes in horoscopes almost as much as she believes in my right to an education. I write about Iraq and its survival, and I hope to someday write about its resurgence.


I write in English to empower my Arab identity. I write to ease the guilt of not understanding my father’s poetry books, of not being able to listen to the news anchor, of not being able to write in Arabic without my hand tilting to the side. I write to transform how I see myself; I am accepting of my faults when others may not be, and I sit comfortably in a body that I used to shame. I write to create a future to look forward to. I write, because I have the urge to prove to myself that I am more than the sheltered, silent girl I used to be.

Why Crowd Scholar?

Winning this scholarship would mean freedom of choice. It would mean that I could immerse myself in university life as an Architecture student without being restricted by commuting expenses. It would mean that I would not have to sacrifice ideas for material prices when constructing architectural models, which I have already been grappling with; having to create a university portfolio independently—without any Art qualifications—has worsened my financial struggles. My ability to experiment has been limited due to the stress of managing my material funds, and this has overwhelmed my ability to concentrate on studies.


My choice to pursue Architecture came from a need to inspire cultural connectivity in my community. Despite living in one of the most ethnically diverse London boroughs, the buildings we are surrounded by rarely reflect residents’ backgrounds. My work experience at Farrells architects allowed me to implement my ideas for creating a cultural centre that would improve people’s quality of life, through encouraging the local community to unite in a shared space accessible to all. This insight into the endless potential of architecture, and its lasting impact on our lives, is what drives me to study this discipline at university. I want to reinvent the world I live in and provide greater prospects for those that struggle to understand their culture, much like I do.


Winning this scholarship would mean my choices have been worthwhile, and that I will be able to inspire the same change in my community that my community has inspired in me.

Biology - A

A-Level (Predicted)

English Literature - A

A-Level (Predicted)

Psychology - A

A-Level (Predicted)

Additional Science - A*


Arabic - A*


Core Science - A*


English Language - A*


English Literature - A*


Further Additional Science - A*


Geography - A*


History - A*


French - A*


Mathematics - A*


Religious Studies - A*


Spanish - A*


Teacher Recommendation

I have known Alaa for 18 months (since she joined the Sixth Form) as her Head of Year. The first words that come to mind to describe Alaa are academic, determined, creative, and caring.

Alaa is one of the most naturally gifted students  we have ever had the pleasure of teaching at King Solomon Academy, and only the second student of the school to achieve straight A*s at GCSE. She is mature and wise for her age, tackling every challenge that comes her way with tenacity and drive.


Growing up in a community where architecture is not seen as a suitable career path, Alaa’s determination to become an architect is even more impressive. She has created her portfolio in her own time and has independently asked the academy’s Head of Art to provide feedback on her work. Alaa has faced a challenging home life which at times has involved social services but she has never let this hold her back from achieving her goals.


Alaa has been an active participant in the First Story programme for two years, firstly developing her own creative writing talents (which have won a number of national competitions) and then supporting younger students as they develop theirs. She is an exceptional pupil, who consistently shows she has the determination to excel at university. She demonstrates incredible dedication to prepare herself for studying architecture and fully deserves the financial support to help her achieve her dreams at university.


From her Biology Teacher: In her most recent mock exam, Alaa achieved the second highest score of the biology cohort, demonstrating a secure knowledge and a determined attitude. She works well to apply her understanding to unfamiliar contexts and appreciates how the study of biology links to her other interests. Her mature and considered application of biology to the wider world is exciting for any teacher to engage with, and her passion for the environmental aspect of the AS biology course will equip her well for considering ecological impacts when studying and designing sustainable architecture.


From her English Teacher:  Alaa’s capacity to interpret and marshal a range of complex information for her own purposes is truly impressive. She draws on a range of sources and specific details to evidence and augment her own arguments, which are nuanced and highly convincing. In the classroom, she is an insightful contributor, often taking the opportunity to listen and collect data before offering her own ideas. Alaa’s essays are confident, interesting and articulate, which means she has consistently been achieving at A grade standard. This success stems from her thorough approach to study, and her ability to question and probe to further her own understanding, both of processes and concepts.


From her Psychology Teacher: Alaa is an exceptional Psychology student who always strives for the optimum level of understanding. Her interest in many of the topics we’ve studied in Psychology has been infectious to see for other students and she is always determined to do more to ensure she is the best candidate she possibly can be. Alaa is a voracious reader which not only allows her to constantly improve as a writer but it also means the strength of her cultural capital is extremely high for someone of her age.

Head of Year, King Solomon Academy

Other students

Hisham El Edrissi Reyahi

Oxford  |  PPE

The 2018-19 Crowd Scholar

Hisham was named The 2018-2019 Crowd Scholar after finishing the application cycle as the top applicant.

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Charles Hampton-Evans

Warwick  |  Computer Science

The 2017-18 Crowd Scholar

Charles was named the inaugural Crowd Scholar after finishing the 2017-18 application cycle as the top applicant.

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Jason Chau

Durham  |  Economics

The Felix Boyeaux Crowd Scholar

Always dreamt of having a scholarship named after you? Donate the most to Crowd Scholar and get the right to name Jason's scholarship.

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