09/05/2012 05:35 BST | Updated 09/05/2012 05:45 BST

Chris Nation Wins Lifetime Scholarship To Cardiff University

A student has won a lifetime scholarship to Cardiff University, which, if he decides to pursue a PhD, will be worth in excess of £50,000.

Chris Nation, from Taunton in Somerset, says he can now have the freedom to do "what is best for me, not best for my bank account".

The aspiring lawyer was chosen out of 500 entrants as the first winner of the new scholarship and says he is "really excited" at the prospect of studying at the Russell Group institution.

The 18-year-old was awarded the prize after passing the "Thrive Challenge" - a series of tests designed to identify the "most exceptional applicant" to the university.

In an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post UK, Nation said it is a "fantastic opportunity".

"I always enjoy having a challenge on the go and this is the biggest challenge I have had in my life so far so I couldn't resist entering," he said. "Getting to the final alone was a fantastic achievement so I was happy just to have made the final six."

The student, who can now look forward to a lifetime of free tuition, said the opportunity has opened up numerous possibilities for the future.

"The lifetime aspect of the prize will mean that I am able to continue to learn French in the future as I am very keen to become a fluent speaker one day.

"Without the scholarship I would have to have made a lot of either/or decisions such as doing a masters or the LPC, whereas now I can have more freedom to do what is best for me, not best for my bank account.

"I will no longer have to worry about finances throughout university and won’t have to constantly be looking to save money at every opportunity," he added.

But Nation isn't the only student to benefit from the award. All six finalists have been granted £3,000 towards their living costs at Cardiff and will receive a laptop and free university sports membership for the duration of their undergraduate degree.

"In a way we were all winners anyway," Nation continued. "The day was brilliant and we all met five new friends as well."

The "passionate" student impressed the judges by focusing his presentation on Law and covered various topics including super injunctions and the recent Trayvon Martin case.

"I also spoke of how I can help to change Law in the future and how I always aim to be the best," he added. "I have wanted to study law for as long as I can remember and now I can."

Professor George Boyne, chair of the undergraduate recruitment campaign and Dean of Cardiff's business school, congratulated Nation but added it was a "really tough decision" due to the high standards of the entrants.

“It was an extremely hard decision but Chris stood out and he is a worthy recipient of the lifetime scholarship. He embodies the spirit of the Thrive Challenge and the values of the university."

The challenge was launched by the university to recognise the high quality of applicants that the institution receives each year. It also coincides with the university increasing its fees for students from outside Wales to £9,000 a year, meaning many are likely to be put off by the astronomical fees.

Students who live in Wales are expected to continue paying around the current level of £3,000 a year, with the Welsh Government subsidising the rest.

Nation still feels in the long term, having a degree "always pays off".

"They are just so highly thought of by employers but there simply aren’t the funds there to support everyone.

"University places should be available to those who are hard working and able to succeed, and not just to those who can afford it."