And so, I had made the decision that I’d like to become a Mental Health Nurse. Now I just needed to complete 3 years of study, 6 placements and keep my husband & child happy. But of course, before any of that could happen, I actually needed to be accepted on a University course and before I could do THAT, my old friend UCAS would need to be revisited.
When I was at college, I remember the many hours that were put aside in our timetables for the UCAS application and all of the help given to us by our tutors and I scoffed, nay MOANED about their constant nagging, (okay, advice!)
At 17, I am happy to admit, I was somewhat of an idiot. Looking back, I’d like to grab hold of my teenage self and tell me to listen up and take note of all of the guidance I was being offered. Because, this time round, I was having to be a grown up and apply for Uni ALL.BY.MYSELF!! Not so easy. I admit, a lot of it is just providing your personal details, digging out all of your previous qualifications…”I got a A in GCSE French? Quelle surprise!” and noting every job you have ever had, all of which is fairly straight forward. However there are two things that make the whole thing less of an admin exercise. 1. Obtaining a Reference and 2. the Personal Statement *shudders*.
So back to my days at college, obtaining a reference meant my tutor (who hardly knew me), speaking to my teachers (who did) and then pulling all of their exceptionally high praise (mais oui) into a beautiful reference. This is part of their ‘job’, they do it every year, many times over, so are well practiced in the art of UCAS and all I had to do is say “Thanks Mrs Tutor” and go on my merry way. This time round was different, if you have read my previous post, you will know I left my job of 6 years at the end of my maternity leave and along with it, left my boss of 6 years too. I had rejoined the company on a temporary contract but in a different department with a different boss, (who I will later refer to as “The Saviour”). But, in the meantime, it made sense to me to ask the one who had known me since I arrived aged 22 and fresh-faced out of University to write some words of my greatness. To cut a long story short, it didn’t happen. In her defence, she is a very busy lady, I know that, but at the time my waking hours revolved around the Little Man and my seemingly mad plan to join Uni, so I was STRESSED!
Enter, The Saviour, who blocked out a whole day of her diary so we could sit and get it done together because she is The Saviour and that, my friends, is what Saviours do! So my advice to anyone in my predicament would be to firstly, make sure you ask a reliable source, someone who knows you and will be able to take the time to do it. Secondly, make their lives as easy as possible so that it doesn’t take up an inordinate amount of their time. I provided my referee with a copy of my personal statement, so she could understand all of my reasons for applying and why I thought I was right for the course. This gave her a good base to build upon and give the University reasons why she thought I was right for the course too. And thirdly, sounds obvious but make sure you let them know it is appreciated. Unlike my college tutor, this wasn’t my boss’ job and I know she had a ton of other things she could and should have been doing instead. So Saviour, if you’re reading this, for the 100th time, THANK-YOU!
And then there’s the thing that you actually do have control over, the Personal Statement. I don’t remember what I wrote at 17 but I can hazard a guess that it was not great, it would have been mostly about my A-levels and about my extra-curricular activities, and I’m not entirely sure what I did with my free time at 17?! This time round, as a mature student, although finding the time to write it wasn’t easy, the actual content was much easier. At 28 I was a proper grown up, with experiences, both in real jobs and real life. I also made great use of the internet. There are so many companies offering courses online which meant I could fatten up my Statement with lots of knowledge, all obtained when the Little Man was napping/in bed/playing by himself (this last one rarely happened and if it did, it was for approximately 5 minutes at a time!) I also signed up to newsletters in areas that were relevant to my course so I could keep up to date with current information. Again this helped fill the void of 6 years in Sales and was also a great help when I had my interview. My final bit of advice when it comes to the Statement is to really draw upon your maturity (still can’t believe you only have to be 21 to be considered a Mature Student!) You have so much to offer a University, things that your average 18 year old can’t and if like me you’re a parent, talk about it. I felt silly at first, being a mother didn’t seem like much of an achievement on the surface, but it is. At that point, I’d kept another human alive for a whole year!! If nothing else, it was 12 months of real responsibility and the biggest learning curve of my life.
So, that was that, with the completion of my reference and personal statement I was ready to hit submit, send my application out into the world and hope that it was enough to convince someone that I was ready to do this whole mature, parent, student thing.
I found a couple of websites through Google that provide helpful guides to writing a personal statement as a mature student but hope that in my next blog I can give another option for a potential format.
Thanks for reading!
4 thoughts on “And so the journey began.”
Great post Grace! Very well written and some great advice for those embarking on the whole UCAS process after a gap in education. Hope you are getting excited about uni starting! Xx
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Thank-you very much! Hope it does help people, it’s a very different experience applying this time round that’s for sure!! SO unbelievably excited right now, just over 3 weeks to go!! xx
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Am anticipating some great updates on here. Well done Grace. Thank you for sharing this experience
Thank-you Shirley, really appreciate you taking the time to read it and share it!