Jamie Cooper-Higgins discusses winning the Scotland Undergraduate of the Year Award 2014 and how maximising his experience at university has paid off…

I heard about the Undergraduate of the Year Awards through both the Strathclyde careers service and also TARGETjobs Events, who run the awards. I decided to enter because it was simply too great an opportunity to pass up.

I could spend the time completing the application process for a shot at the next stage and ultimately winning, or I could not try and regret never knowing… It was worth the effort then and in retrospect definitely worth the effort now!

There are 12 different categories in the Undergraduate of the Year Awards, which all follow a similar, but not identical, application process. I applied for the Scotland Undergraduate of the Year Award 2014 and first of all had to complete an online application, then a comprehensive set of SHL psychometric tests designed by the event sponsor The Corporate Executive Board Company (CEB). We were then shortlisted, and I was invited to an assessment centre with information technology group CGI at their UK offices in Reading. There, I was assessed on all the soft skills they were looking for in a graduate. Along with the other finalists in my category I was then invited to attend the award ceremony, but had no idea I had won until it was announced.

Although academic performance was a factor in winning, it definitely wasn’t the only one. The Awards recognise drive and ambition in candidates, shown through extracurricular activities and life experiences. I’ve tried to maximise my experience while at university through part-time work, marketing internships and military service with the RAF – and last summer as a Saltire Scholar I interned with Barclays Wealth & Investment Management in New York for two months. I’ve not had any of these opportunities handed on a plate to me, and I’ve had to work for them, but I’m very grateful towards organisations like the Saltire Foundation for working so hard to offer these amazing opportunities.

Attending the grand final in Canary Wharf, London, was absolutely fantastic! Sir Trevor McDonald hosted the Awards and it really was an honour to accept the award from such a distinguished public figure. His speech about the trajectory of his own career and the merits of hard work and determination really resonated with everyone in the room. The whole episode will definitely stick with me forever. The event was very well organised – the food and drink was really impressive – and I’m very grateful I was able to share it with all of the fellow finalists and CGI staff on our table. It really was a fantastic day.

The whole experience has undoubtedly been worth it and I’m glad I went for it. The benefit of being able to put the accolade on my CV is great and time will tell what kinds of doors that opens. On a personal level it was great to be recognised for the work I’ve put in over the last few years to make it happen.

Where are they now?

AVP, marketing manager at Barclays.