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Finding the right course at the right institution

Former Access to HE, and University of York student Keran Pincombe talks about how choosing the right courses led her to academic and career success.
I didn’t have a great experience at school, due to the sheer number of schools that I attended as an Army child. I suppose the turning point for me was after my son was born. That’s when I really wanted to do something. I think once that seed is sown in your mind you have to go with it. I just thought ‘what have I got to lose’? ‘I only need to prove something to myself, nobody else’. That’s the first step really. You need to really want to do something and go with it. I think it would have been very easy to have talked myself out of it.
I just thought I would take one day at a time and see where it might lead. I knew if I considered going to university for three years it would have seemed like an impossible challenge at that stage. Initially, I thought I would do a course at the local college, so I started to research what was available. I had an interview with a wonderful lady who ran an Access to Higher Education course. That course would give me the underpinning academic skills that I required and introduced me to different areas of study. I can laugh now, but I can remember saying to a tutor, I can’t find the answer to the question you set in the textbook.
She just smiled and said… do your reading and then tell me what you think the answer is to the essay question I set, using the evidence. It wasn’t easy… someone wanted me to read what had been written on a subject and for me to tell them what I thought… I wasn’t good enough to do that – again those fears creeping in. I had to be very disciplined with myself and just do what I needed to do for that day, that assignment, that research, and to not get overwhelmed with fear. I think we automatically put so much pressure on ourselves when it is unnecessary. You don’t need to be getting full marks for everything when you start.
You’re not expected to be able to do it straight away, you’re there to learn how to do it - I suppose I was learning how to learn with my college course. I applied for university during my college course, and I was delighted to be accepted to study Social Science at York. Whilst I was delighted to be accepted, again the old fears of ‘will I be able to do it’ resurfaced. Looking back, I can laugh now, but those fears can make or break you. You need to listen to your fears and then dismiss them, because you are obviously good enough, otherwise they wouldn’t have given you an offer to study for a Degree.
I will be honest, the first couple of months at university were a bit daunting, but again that was down to my confidence when I look back. I kept expecting that someone would say ‘sorry we made a terrible mistake, we shouldn’t have given you a place’. There were so many ‘young’ people and I thought there is no way I am going to keep up with them academically, something I now know is called ‘imposter syndrome’. Sitting in lectures and preparing for seminars I remember thinking I can’t believe that I am here! I ended up in the second term with as many younger friends as I did other mature students, and we learnt a lot from each other.
To be honest completing the Access to HE Diploma before going to university, I was actually more prepared for writing essays and delivering seminars than some of the younger students.

Having attended a number of schools as a child, and then experienced a range of careers, before returning to education, Keran was able to transfer her work and life skills into the new world of adult education.

Taking the step to research courses at a local college, it soon became apparent that education could open up endless opportunities for mature learners like Keran and her learning and career journey has proved that since. A college course was followed by an undergraduate course and teacher training. Further and Higher Education Lecturing followed and Awarding Body examiner roles alongside studying for her PHd in education. All this, from an idea that she wanted to do more…

You may recognise some of what Keran talks about as being true for you too. Do feel free to share your comments.

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Returning to Education as a Mature Student

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