University Admission for the A Level’less

There has been lots of talk on the news over the last few days about A-Level and University education. Changes to the system are seeing the caps lifted for entrance into university and more students are able to access the courses of their choice, even if they have not achieved the required A Level results which were previously essential.


The Picture I Thought I Would Never Have

Some people are criticising the changes; nothing new there as change always meets with criticism no matter how big or insignificant a change can be.  I know from first hand experience however that flexibility in admissions is crucial to some, and no, it doesn’t mean lowering university standards in any way.
Back in 2012, I was newly divorced and had lost my home, most possessions and all financial security. A merger at work had seen me forced into a job which was wholly unsuitable and no amount of talks with management made a difference, despite informing them prior, during and post interview that I was not suitable for the intended role. Of course within six months, despite my best efforts, my colleagues and I were in agreement that I was not good in that role and the nastiness they felt necessary to get me removed began.

So at this point, I was on the brink of bankruptcy and being homeless for the second time in two years.  I literally had nothing left to lose and there was only way I could possibly see a future…Qualifications. I figured I could keep my fingers crossed and hope for a white knight or I could trip the detonator myself so that I could have at least some control over the blast…and that’s what I did.

I applied for, and unsurprisingly was granted, voluntary redundancy.  I took my payoff cheque and blagged my way into an interview at Chester University.  I had 5 poop grade GCSEs and no A-Levels but I did have lots of work experience and higher education business technology & screen-writing qualifications. I knew my strengths were in writing, press and communications and so I convinced the Professor to interview me for a Marketing Communications & Public Relations degree; which turned out to be a Masters degree. My eggs were all in this basket and felt any chance of making a better life for my children & I would be blown if I failed to impress at the interview.

I turned up for the interview feeling like Erin Brockovich in Legally Blonde clothing. I felt a phoney and terrified I would be ‘pity laughed’ out of the building. The other students lurching around looked nothing like the sorority chicks in Legally Blonde; which I had watched on repeat for months as motivation / inspiration. I felt like mutton dressed as lamb in my suit shorts and pretty blouse and completely conspicuous next to the hoodie and jeans clad, decade younger, students.

Me & My Wonderful Family

To my overwhelming relief, the Professor agreed to take a chance on me. Ok, I didn’t have the academic qualifications that were considered essential. I didn’t even have A-Levels let alone a first degree but here I was, about to embark on a Masters degree.  What I did have to offer, was six years of industry experience and a ‘come hell or high water’ attitude to getting this degree.

I started the course in September 2012 as a ‘Mature Student’ with knocking knees but by the end of the first day, I realised that while I didn’t have the academic study skills of my ‘born in the 1990s’ classmates, I had a huge head-start on the practical, working elements of the course and was soon looked to for advice and collaboration on projects and assignments.  Instead of being the fraud of the group, I will give myself dues and say that I was bloody good! Yes, I was at a disadvantage initially with not knowing about referencing and other ‘say a whole hell of a lot of waffley crap about shag all to make an insignificant point about something that could have been summed up with common sense in a third of the sentences’ …but I soon got the hang of it.

Fast forward to March 2014. I graduated. As I sat in the graduation congregation with the four other girls who managed to stay the course, I could feel the waves of pride from my family hugging me tight. My new partner, two children and parents had been there for me every step of the way, from panic freak outs over presentations and 2am exam cramming through to “Woo Hoo” shrieks of OMG distinction results.  Sat there in my cap and gown waiting to receive my scroll, I knew that, had not my Professor been able to accept me on account of my initial lack of academic qualifications, I would not have been sat with my classmates and most definitely, a bleak future for myself and my children would have lay ahead.

We Did It!!!!!

Now, as a Master of Science, I have letters after my name. My children and I have a lovely home, I have a career that I love and, as of yesterday, my financial turmoil is at an end.  I could not be more grateful to the currently criticised changes in university admissions. I believe that if a person is determined enough, then they deserve an education to as higher level as they are prepared to work for, whether that means they begin university at 18 with A-Levels or 80 with life experience.  There is no A Level that competes with dogged determination.

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