Access to Higher Education, Mature learners, Student Experience, Student Stories, Uncategorized

The close of one chapter and the start of another. By Helen Mallinson

Yesterday I handed in my last three assignments for Go Higher, sat my history exam and said farewell to the tutors, mentors and fellow students I have shared the last nine months with. Go Higher is a brilliant course run by the University of Liverpool which allows mature students (anyone from 21 years up) to gain access to university so they can get the degree they’ve always wanted to do. These students come from all kinds of backgrounds and have all sorts of stories to tell about how and why they missed out on university education the first time round.

I had been thinking about going to university for a while, but wasn’t confident of my ability to do so and lacked the qualifications to apply. When I left school, many years ago, my parents were not encouraging of further education and insisted I enter the world of work. No one else from my family has ever been to university and while I suppose they thought they were doing the right thing it was an exceptionally narrow minded attitude that thwarted my potential for a rewarding career and better life.

I found Go Higher with just three or four days to go to the application deadline and ran round like a headless chicken filling in the forms, getting a reference and finally handing in the application by hand. A few weeks later I was invited to an interview and I turned up shaking like a leaf and certain I’d be turned down flat.

We were given a short written assignment and a maths questionnaire throughout which I checked, checked and checked again my answers and seemed to lose the ability to write a coherent sentence. The interview was informal and friendly and went well, though I convinced myself I’d screwed it up by saying the wrong thing. I went home feeling a bit deflated and awaited my rejection letter.

When an envelope with the university logo on it arrived my fumbling fingers could barely open it. Inside was my acceptance letter and details of what to do next. I couldn’t believe it. Then the doubts started to creep in – Why was I putting myself through this? How could I possibly be clever enough to pass the course, let alone go on and do a degree? I bet all the other candidates were going through the same thing too.

On our first day no-one wanted to sit with anyone else, we all tried not to make eye contact and hardly anyone spoke. We were “forced” to get to know our neighbours and by the end of the day had at least got to know a few names and a little bit about the groups we had been put into.

EgyptologyThat day seems like yesterday and a lifetime away at the same time. I have met some of the loveliest, kindest, funniest people and the tutors aren’t bad either 😉. Some of them will be friends for life I am sure. I don’t think there has been an assignment where I haven’t said “I can’t do this,” but I have finished every single one and got brilliant marks for them too. I have grown in confidence, found that I can speak in front of a class, I was intelligent enough to pass the course and am more than capable of doing that degree. I’ve been accepted to study Joint Honours Archaeology and Egyptology starting in September of this year. All that remains are final marks and graduation where we can all meet up again and congratulate each other on a job very well done.

For anyone who harbours a secret desire to enter the world of academia, I say GO FOR IT! No matter how old you are. Go Higher has been the best decision I have ever made. My future has never looked brighter and who knows where it will take me?

Thank you to all of the wonderful, brilliant, helpful, supportive amazing staff of Go Higher, but especially Dr. James Bainbridge and Dr. Claire Jones, who not only taught me amazing things, but were the tutors who interviewed me right at the start and believed in me enough to give me a chance and to Barbara Milne, the best mentor a tutor group could have.

John Armstrong, 'The Open Door' (1930);
John Armstrong, ‘The Open Door’ (1930);

This blog was first published on Helen’s blog on 15 May, where she blogs as Nel Ashley- Indie Author. Massive best wishes to her for her undergraduate studies at Liverpool University – it has been a joy having her on Go Higher.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.