Access to Higher Education, Mature learners, Student Experience, Student Stories, Widening Participation

A new path for when life stops getting in the way – by Sarah (class of 2020)

Sometimes life gets in the way. That was my mantra for years, as I was raising a young family and working part time, without any further qualifications and no clear path on how to obtain them.

Eventually, however, you have to admit to yourself that time passes whether you work towards achieving your goals or not, and I didn’t want another year to go by without at least trying…

Before I even thought about applying to the Go Higher Programme, I’d decided to access a free learning course offered by my local community centre – Level 2 in English and Maths. These courses were a great introduction in getting me back into ‘study mode’. I enjoyed being in the classroom environment again, and meeting other people in my community as we worked on the course together. As I was completing my maths course, my tutor suggested I move on to a GCSE course she was teaching in the autumn, and I figured it was worth a go; I didn’t have any firm plans for my future education at that point, and it seemed like a natural progression from my Level 2 courses.

As exam time approached, I discussed with my tutor what my next steps should be. She was very encouraging and wrote a recommendation for the Go Higher Programme; I was very impressed by what I saw on the prospectus and the University website, and although I didn’t know for sure what I wanted to eventually study, it seemed clear to me that this programme would be the perfect next step in my educational progression.

After applying for the course, I was invited for an interview and short exam. It must not have been too traumatic, because I barely remember it! The exam was short and to the point, and my interview was with Claire, who was very friendly and welcoming. I left the interview wanting to join the programme more than ever!

The wait to find out if I was accepted onto the programme felt interminable, and it was an exciting day when I was finally told I was on the course. I then immediately did what every new student does – spent a fortune on pretty pens and new notebooks (or is that just me? Ha!).

The Go Higher Programme has been an amazing taste of university life. I felt overwhelmed during those first few weeks, after learning my way around and jumping straight into essays and group projects, but it was just the sort of challenges I revel in. I enjoyed sinking my teeth into difficult topics, researching in the gorgeous Sydney library, and learning from university tutors.

I feel like I have had a very clear introduction into university life and undergraduate expectations; if I had chosen an access course at a local college, I don’t think my experiences would have been nearly as edifying and helpful in getting my work to university standard. From the very beginning, I felt that the expectations on students were high, which could sometimes be intimidating, but there was always someone able to help and support me with my assignments.

Obviously this year has been a unique one; with the strike action in the early spring and then subsequent lockdown, we all have been required to be flexible in our approach to learning and studying. Despite these challenges, I have consistently felt supported throughout the last stage of the course; the tutors have all been available for email chats or skype calls, and although I personally didn’t feel the need to access the study support groups that were made available, it was always good to know the tutors were around.


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