LONDON — Vitoria Mario had secured a place to study at one of Britain’s top universities, but didn’t have money to cover the cost.
In hopes of achieving her dream, she started a GoFundMe page to raise the 40,000 pounds (about $52,000) she needed. But with the start of her course looming, by Thursday she had reached only about half of her target when a donation of £23,373 came in.
The name attached to it: Taylor Swift.
“Vitoria, I came across your story online and am so inspired by your drive and dedication to turning your dreams into reality,” the singer wrote on the fund-raising page. “I want to gift you the rest of your goal amount. Good luck with everything you do! Love, Taylor.”
The good news for Ms. Mario came as hundreds of thousands of students across England have had their entry to universities disrupted — first by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the exams usually taken to secure college places, and then by the government’s use of an algorithm to determine the students’ scores that was eventually abandoned after contentious results.
Although the algorithm disproportionately lowered scores of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, Ms. Mario — an 18-year-old from Coimbra, Portugal, who moved to London four years ago to pursue her education — still received top grades in math and physics, securing her offer of a place at the University of Warwick to study math.
“I was told by my mother that if you can get a university education in the U.K., you will be set apart for life,” the teenager, who has been living with relatives in London, told a British news site.
Despite securing a loan to pay for her university tuition, Ms. Mario found that she was ineligible for a grant or loan to cover her housing and living expenses because she has not lived in Britain for at least five years. She said on her fund-raising page that her family is low-income and that without a loan, her widowed mother, who lives in Portugal, could not afford to pay.
Brampton Manor Academy, the public high school that she attended in East London, has a reputation for helping students from minority backgrounds achieve top results. The school called Ms. Mario, who is Black, a “star pupil” when it shared the news on Twitter that Ms. Swift had helped her achieve her dream.
Ms. Mario said on her fund-raising page that her efforts had also included emailing hundreds of people at top corporations to ask for financial support, but that she was either turned down or heard nothing back. She also traipsed around some of London’s most affluent areas, slipping letters into residents’ mailboxes. But still, she heard nothing.
Yet now that she no longer has to worry about her university costs, she said to the Press Association, she can ready herself for her course “so I can just be really prepared when it comes.”
The donation is not the first time Ms. Swift has reached out to members of the public and her fans, known as Swifties. She has invited fans to her home to listen to new albums before they are publicly released, and often sends fans messages on social media.
The singer, whose fortune is estimated to be over $360 million, is also helping fans navigate the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic. At the end of March, some shared screenshots of $3,000 donations she had made to help them cope with the financial stresses brought on by job losses.
She also gave money to Grimey’s, a record store in Nashville, her hometown, that was at risk of going out of business because of the economic downturn.