I’m writing this from my new bedroom at the University of Bath, awaiting the start of Freshers’ Week and Induction Week tomorrow! My route to this point was a bit different to the majority of students, as I am a mature student, and so studied an Access to HE course to meet the entry requirements of the BSc Psychology course here at Bath. This is a 1 year course, equivalent to A levels, and you can take them in lots of different subjects – mine was Health and Social Care, and consisted of units in human biology, psychology, sociology, maths, social history, study skills/IT, and an individual research project.
I knew from very early on that Bath was one of the universities and courses that I liked the look of the best, but also that the entry requirements were fairly high, and so I’d have to work hard to get my place here! Access results are a little different to most courses – all credits can be graded at pass, merit, and distinction, and my offer for Bath was to get 39 credits at distinction, and to get 6 level 3 Maths credits. Unlike A levels, you don’t have a results day when you find out what grades you have – you are given your results as you go through the course. The advantage of this is that you know if you are likely to meet your offer before you have actually finished the course, so there is less uncertainty, and you know which university you are likely to go to relatively early. However, doing the equivalent of A levels in 1 year is a lot of work, and there’s lots of skills, such as referencing, that aren’t expected at A level but are required to pass an Access course.
When I knew I had definitely done well enough on my course to meet my offer for Bath I was a combination of excited and nervous. Obviously everyone has nerves about moving away from friends and family, but this can be even more difficult as a mature student, as you worry about being a lot older than the average student and not fitting in because of that. I was also really worried that everyone else, with their strings of A*s and As at A level would be much cleverer than me, and that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the work. I was excited too though – both the department and the university have such good reputations, and I thought the course content looked really interesting, and there is so much you can get involved in as well as your course.
There is a lot to do in practical terms when preparing for university. Applying as early as possible for your student loan and grant is a good idea, as it ensures you will get paid as close to the beginning of the semester as possible. You are also able to apply for Disabled Students Allowance at this point, which is for any students with a disability or learning difficulties. You don’t get given any money directly, but they will supply equipment that may help you, and pay for support if you need it. I am eligible for DSA, so have received various things to help with my studies whilst I am here at university. There are also various scholarships and bursaries you can apply for through the university, and I will be getting a University of Bath bursary during my time here. I also applied for the Lloyds Scholar programme, which is open to students from lower income families who are studying at Bath, or one of their other partner universities. This involves being given a bursary each year, as well as a mentor, various skills training sessions, and the opportunity to do paid summer internships at Lloyds Banking Group. In return you are expected to do 100 hours a year volunteering work. This was something I was really keen to do anyway, and I thought the Lloyds Scholar programme looked like a great opportunity, so I applied and was lucky enough to get a place. Applying for accommodation as early as possible is also a good idea, as it gives you a higher chance of getting into one of your first choices.
The last month or so before moving here involved going out and buying lots of things I would need (or thought I would need!) for university. I’ve bought several things to make my room feel homely, plus all the usual equipment such as stationery, kitchen equipment, towels, and bedding, plus of course the odd psychology book! Then of course comes packing, the most boring part of preparing for university, but also the point where it starts to feel real, and where the nerves kick in, or did for me!
I was really lucky, as the university ran a 3 day workshop immediately before the start of the first semester for students who had taken an Access to HE course. This was a really great opportunity to meet some other mature students, some of whom are living on campus like me, and some who live locally and so are commuting. I will write about the workshop in more depth in my next post.
I have now moved into Westwood, where I will be living for the next year. All my housemates seem really lovely, and I have made my room as cosy and homely as possible, and am really looking forward to getting stuck in to university life!