I am Jess McCallum, I am studying Social Policy at the University of Bristol. Criminology is my area of interest. I studied an Access course at the City of Bath College, started in 2009.
I left school at 16 with just a handful of GCSEs, went to college to start a couple of media courses at A Level. I had fallen into an office job for a Financial Advisors and took to it quite well. They wanted me to do my Financial Services Qualifications. My studies ended up taking a backseat and the money at work became more important. I was more committed to that than I was committed to anything else.
I was approaching 30 and it dawned on me that actually, I didn't want a career in Financial Services for the rest of my life. Having not been at University was something that I had been thinking of for a while. I was not exactly sure what I wanted to do. The thought wouldn't leave my mind.
I'd never heard of Access before, it seemed like it would be absolutely perfect for me, it ticked all the right boxes and specifically aimed at adults who had been out of education for a fair amount of time. You can choose the options that you want to do so you can line them up with perhaps, your final degree course.
It was nerve racking, going back to a classroom, but I quickly made friends with lots of people in the same boat as me, and my sort of age. Getting positive feedback from lecturers on pieces of work that you've spent a lot of time and effort working on, was a huge confidence booster. And that's what the Access course is very good at, boosting your confidence, but they also give you study skills. You're having to do certain work and hand it in by a certain time. I think that was a challenge for most people, but we knew that it was preparing us for university in the best way. So I think everybody accepted the challenge.
I remember I got my conditional offer for Bristol, just before Christmas, and as they were my first choice, I was elated. It certainly made my Christmas and my year! I'm certainly enjoying it. I'm not certain I'd have enjoyed it quite as much had I not been to college and done the Access course. The level of work that we get and the amount of work that we get, the Access course really prepared us well for.
I would say to anybody regardless of their situation, if you've even got the slightest feeling that university might be something that you are interested in, go to your local college, talk to your tutors. It was the best thing I did; if your local college offers the Access course, go along and talk to them. There's no better route as an adult learner back to university. It's only one extra year and believe me, it flies by, and you will be as well prepared as you can be when you start.