The Path Less Travelled

In one of my first blog posts for Inside Edge, ‘Am I too old to go to uni?’, I wrote a little about my decision to come to uni at the age of 23 in an attempt to reassure everyone that it is never too late (and you are never too old) to pursue your dreams. Today, I want to really drive that point home and shed some light on the rather twisty, hilly path I took from sixth form to university. I guess, compared to the majority, it’s the path less traveled.

For most of my time in sixth form, I was preparing to go to university. I didn’t particularly want to and I didn’t feel remotely excited like my peers did, but it seemed like the right and most obvious thing to do. I didn’t even question it. As the application process came to an end and I stared at a UCAS Track inbox full of offers from brilliant universities…I realised that I didn’t want to accept a single one of them. I yearned to be out in the world working and I was desperate to start a creative career. I knew from the research I had done for my personal statement that I didn’t actually need a degree for my chosen career if I could get a solid portfolio so I had a blog throughout college and eventually secured an incredibly prestigious and competitive apprenticeship in social media and digital marketing for businesses. I worked for a fabulous agency in Manchester and was kept on to look after some big household brands after qualifying, living the good life, and drinking free cocktails in fancy bars after work!

Fast forward slightly and my Dad passed away suddenly, leaving me feeling lost and desperate to be with my family more to support them. I gave up my role in digital marketing and spent nearly two years working in foreign currency retail so that I had flexible shifts and never had to take work home with me so that my time with my Mum was undistracted. After 18 months of this, I felt more like ‘me’, and that yearn to be creative was biting at my heels once more. I returned to digital marketing and was delighted to be creating once more, but something was missing.

I had been struggling with my own mental health for years and struggled to find any support in my local area due to huge waiting lists and funding issues. One day, after a truly life-changing phone call with an NHS Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, I Googled his job title and added ‘how to qualify’. Straight away I came across my degree, Counselling and Psychotherapy, and fell in love with how Edge Hill in particular cover the subject in a person-centred way with a huge focus on professional practice and work experience. Throughout my first year and half of my second year, I continued working in my digital marketing role part-time to support myself before deciding to work as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities early in 2020.

As you can see, I’ve moved backwards and forwards through my digital marketing career with breaks to work in retail/foreign exchange in between before deciding to retrain as a psychotherapist by returning to full-time education as an adult. Even whilst studying I have moved jobs in order to better align with my long term goals and feel more fulfilled in my work. I came to Edge Hill aged 23 and will leave next summer at the age of 26 with a CV that would be about 5 pages long if I included everything! The message? Once again…it is NEVER too late and you are NEVER too old.

Sam xo

Staying Connected to your Subject over Summer

University summer breaks can be months long, a blessing in many ways but also a curse if you are studying something that you are passionate about or pursuing your dream career. Taking so long ‘out of the game’ if you are studying a subject where placements etc stop over summer can be incredibly difficult to deal with and can even leave you feeling like you have taken a step back when you return. This might also be true if you are about to start university in September and now have months of nothing after spending a year or maybe more applying and preparing.

So, how can you combat this and stay connected to your subject between years or before starting your course?

  1. Set a reading goal – whether it’s an hour a week or an hour a day, carve out some time to continue reading around your subject.
  2. Find a relevant volunteering role – this could even be online, perhaps a Facebook group linked to your subject requires new moderators?
  3. Start building your contacts – use this time to set up an excellent LinkedIn profile and reach out to some relevant industry professionals or research how people in aspirational positions within your industry got to where they are today.
  4. Research next steps – order some brochures for further postgraduate study, research potential future companies or job profiles, pick out some relevant CPD opportunities for the future…there are so many ways that you can be creating a plan for your future, even if that future is 3+ years away!

Don’t worry about disconnecting from your passion, use this time to explore all the other ways in which you can be growing and learning!

Sam x

Am I too old to go to uni?

When I decided I wanted to study Counselling and Psychotherapy at university, I was 22. I had just missed admission so I knew that it was going to be over a year until I could begin my course, making me 23 at the point of enrollment. I did the (very basic) maths. Graduating at the age of 26.

Being a serial planner and born worrier, I began to spiral into thoughts of how my future might now go “I want a Master’s, so that would take me to the age of 28…”

A frantic Google search into the possible career paths of a counsellor and how long they can take to become established in fuelled this fire “1 year to find the perfect role, 1 year to train and settle in…I would be 30. What if I want a PhD?! Where do I fit in family or travelling?”

My personal statement sat waiting to be submitted to UCAS and the glossy brochures landed on my doormat. Pictures of young people laughing and joking, advice for school leavers on getting good A-Levels, tips for moving away from home…my heart sank. Another thing to worry about. Not only was I completely overhauling my life and routine, putting my future on hold…I was going to be in a room full of 18-year-olds for three years.

Of course, I was wrong. I was wrong about all of those things.

I am not the oldest on my course and we rarely consider each other’s ages when we learn and spend time together, even when we socialise. My life is not hold – I have moved house, changed (part-time) careers and began a work placement in my dream role of a psychotherapist all whilst studying full-time at Edge Hill. When I graduate, I know I won’t be ‘starting again’, I will simply be continuing my journey.

You are never too old to go to university. Some of my peers came from sixth form, some were parents ready to build a career now their children were in education, some came from professional careers like I did and some came back into education from retirement, having discovered a new calling in life. You are never too old. It is never too late.

Sam xo

Life as a Mature Student

Are you currently considering studying at Edge Hill University as a mature student? Deciding to go to university as a mature student was a decision willed with excitement and nerves for me. Part of me was worried what it would be like studying after years of being out of formal education, but I was also incredibly excited to start a new chapter of my life. I firmly believe that studying as a mature student is different than studying straight out of school/sixth form/college but it is possible and such an amazing experience!

Juggling your time:

As a mature student it is likely that you will have many responsibilities outside of university. From caring from a family, running your home, taking part in clubs or activities that you currently enjoy to having to work. Your time will inevitably be filled to the max! But this doesn’t have to mean it isn’t possible. I have fund using a diary, both on my phone and a paper version, as well as creating lists of what needs doing and when to be very helpful. It enables you to fit more into your days than you ever thought possible.

You will make new friends:

People of all ages study a multitude of courses at Edge Hill. You will make friends of all ages and find people who share your interests as well as others who will inspire you to try something new. There is so much to do and so many places to go both around campus and in Ormskirk too.

The environment is inspiring:

Edge Hill campus is a wonderful place. From my very first visit during an Open Day it felt welcoming, inviting and safe. There are many places to study around campus from the library to the Hub as well as specialist rooms such as those in Creative Edge. Then when it is time to relax there are loads of places to eat and spend time with friends, including a Subway! Being in an environment which is supportive and encouranging can be incredibly motivating too.

You’ll have a different perspective in lectures:

Having real life, often hands on, experience will mean you will be able to apply what you have learnt in the lectures to your real life experiences. This can give you a different perspective especially when completing assignments. As an Early Childhood Studies student, one of my first year module assignments was a reflective booklet. I found it very interesting being able to reflect on what I had learnt in my workplace and relate this to the skills I would need for future practice.