Sarah Rigden left school with few qualifications and then returned to the classroom to study BSc Social Policy at the University of Bristol.
After an unhappy time at school I couldn’t leave quick enough. I became a legal secretary which I wasn’t that interested in and eventually left to have a family. Four children and a variety of voluntary and paid menial jobs later I was persuaded by a friend to consider returning to education.
Just to see if I could actually enjoy studying I took a Return to Study course, followed by an Access to Higher Education course, studying Sociology, Psychology and Film Studies and really enjoyed them both so continued this journey by going to university.
When I did my Return to Study Course my nerves began but they were unfounded, apart from the day of my Maths GCSE. These nerves returned when I started university, mainly because I was convinced they had made a mistake and someone would be telling me that I wasn’t supposed to be there. Thankfully, this never happened.
My main worry was due to my lack of confidence from my school days combined with me panicking that I would be studying with people a lot more intelligent than myself and a lot younger than me too.
The pros of taking a degree far outweighed the cons, my confidence in myself has increased beyond recognition of the old me. The best piece of advice I was given by one of my college tutors was to choose a subject to study that jumped out at me from the online prospectuses.
I can honestly say I loved my course from beginning to end.
I was the second oldest on my course but I still made many friends of all ages, many of who are still friends today. My horizons are far broader than I could ever have imagined they would be, I was asked by the university to speak to the University Council about my experiences, was featured in university magazine and in my work as a student ambassador I learnt far more about university life at all levels. The cons are only the cost of the course, but the pleasure of studying something that you are enthusiastic about and the fact that you don’t start repaying anything until you’re earning over £15,000 makes this negligible.
I would say to other students, don’t think the younger students know more than you, they are just as nervous to start with and don’t bite, so befriend them rather than distance yourself from them. Also, make good use of your personal tutor, as a mature student you are bound to have other anxieties outside your studies; my son became ill during my second year and my essay deadlines couldn’t have been further from my mind. My tutor was able to deal with everything for me and I gave in that essay at a later date when things had calmed down. If you don’t keep the university informed of any problems you are having they can’t possibly know when you need help
My last bit of advice would be, having finished my degree and having difficulty finding work during a recession, try to get as much work experience while studying, I was a student ambassador (paid work which helped me), did some work with the student union and a friend of mine was on the university radio all good things to put on your CV.
This website is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets if you are able to do so.