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

Go Higher Musings, by Lois (Class of 2019)

Hi! I am Lois, and I am twenty-two years old. I completed the University of Liverpool Go Higher Access Diploma a number of months ago and recently received my final marks for the programme. Since finishing Go Higher, a void has opened. I spent Wednesdays on campus attending seminar-style teaching sessions, and devoted myself, and committed my free time, to delving into research and completing subject assignments. Upon the cessation of this newfound and thoroughly enjoyed routine, I feel tremendously lost! The hiatus between the completion of Go Higher and the start of undergraduate study has presented a range of emotions; excitement is preponderant, but there is also a slight, niggling apprehension surrounding the notion of imminent undergraduate study. I have missed Go Higher immensely, but the time apart from study has allowed for contemplation ⁠— I have reflected heavily on my personal development and the provision of invaluable opportunity made available throughout the Go Higher programme.

I have always been eager to go to university and found great enjoyment when pursuing previous study and educational ventures. However, my academic journey towards undergraduate study has been far from linear. I entered sixth-form with GCSEs I was happy with, but, due to challenging personal circumstances, I ended up dropping out of college during my second year. I did not complete my A-Levels and ended up working in retail and office jobs. I desperately wished to attain my A-Levels and ended up spreading myself too thin, attempting to complete all of my exams and coursework as an external candidate whilst working full-time. Unfortunately, my results ended up being not at all impressive, and I felt deflated, lacking confidence and sure that any slither of hope in regards to me attaining my academic goals was quashed. Although I felt hopeless, I was still determined to achieve. I ended up extensively searching for opportunities and gained places at universities which offered full-time foundation years further afield, including Leeds and Sussex. I was reluctant to move but felt that it was a necessity — until I stumbled across Go Higher. Go Higher seemed like a perfect fit; the programme encompassed a variety of subject disciplines which I loved, it was part-time, and it was local. I ended up rejecting offers from other universities and applied to Go Higher the subsequent year.

Following an interview and general English and mathematics tests (which I anticipated to be much worse than they actually were), I started Go Higher in September 2018. I was unsure what to expect and felt somewhat overwhelmed following the three-day induction! However, it was apparent from the outset that the quality of support and teaching provided on the programme was second to none and that the foundations from which we could build our success were wholly provided. I was determined to succeed and was hooked from the start.

Go Higher covers a wide range of subjects based within the humanities, arts and social sciences. Stages 1 and 2 of the programme amalgamate a variety of topics and incorporate skills essential to undergraduate study. During Stage 3, the opportunity to ‘specialise’ in three subjects is provided, and skills learnt in Stages 1 and 2 are perfected. For Stage 3, English literature, history and sociology were my subjects of choice. I found all subjects to be fascinating, and classes and material were continuously engaging. The passion displayed by the course tutors regarding their subjects truly is inspiring, and I always headed home on a Wednesday feeling stimulated and enlightened.

Go Higher was not without its struggles, and I sometimes felt as if I was going off on a tangent when completing assignments. However, the tutors and their feedback proved invaluable, and this support was a central component attributed to me successfully completing the course. The majority of students on the programme share a collective mindset built upon a determination to succeed, thereby creating an invaluable support network.  One of our first assignments was a group presentation, and, although the task initially seemed daunting, I was lucky enough to work alongside a group of amazing students who ended up being some of my closest companions throughout the course.

During the home stretch of Go Higher, whilst completing final assignments, I was provided with the opportunity to visit Auchinleck House in Ayrshire (left) on a trip to study the ideas of the eighteenth-century European Enlightenment with fellow classmates. The excursion, in my opinion, encompassed and represented Go Higher as a whole; a provision of materials, learning environment and inspiration, and the basis from which self-exploration and self-directed learning could take place.

We made the most of the idyllic Scottish setting, and within the extensive grounds of the property, we embarked on numerous adventures and discovered ice-caves, grottos and ruins of the old house. Group meals were prepared by Go Higher tutors, Claire and James, and included an eighteenth-century Enlightenment inspired banquet, complete with flummery! Following meals, we often retired to the library, discussing literature picked from well-stocked bookshelves. We engaged in discussion concerning the Scottish Enlightenment, and James, one evening, presented us with a bioluminescent display reminiscent of an eighteenth-century ‘new experiment’ show. We even went on a group excursion to Glasgow and visited The Huntarian to laud and relish in the scientific discoveries and developments associated with the period. The Go Higher learning experience is most definitely not confined wholly to the classroom!

Upon returning to education and embarking on Go Higher at the University of Liverpool, I have come to realise that in previous educational ventures, I had become disillusioned with what academia truly entails and that learning, in actuality, is much more than attaining a specific grade. Go Higher was not just the vehicle in which I could attain a qualification which would grant me entry to university or replace three rather lacklustre A-levels. Go Higher further ignited a passion for learning which had somewhat waned through motions of feeling ‘not good enough’ following previous endeavours and allowed me to build the confidence to dedicate myself to subjects which I genuinely love. I recently confirmed my place to study a BA in History and Politics, which I am incredibly eager to commence. Although I am experiencing apprehension and anxieties, Go Higher has provided me with the confidence to feel well-equipped and ready for the years I will spend in academia.

I completed Go Higher whilst juggling work and other personal commitments and achieved a grade which I was pleasantly surprised with. The experience was amazing, and I cannot wait for the new opportunities that undergraduate study will present. If you are interested in Go Higher, do apply! It really is a wonderful experience.

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