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James Marlow

Computer Science Student at King’s College London

As long as you apply yourself, absolutely anyone can do well in an Access to HE Diploma!.

James' story

Before starting the Access to HE course, I was a software developer at a mobile app development company. After 5 years, I knew it was time for a change and I wanted to challenge myself by studying computer science at degree level. However, I wasn’t sure about the best way to move into academic study and wasn’t keen on taking two years out of my life to study A-Levels.


This is where the Access to HE Diploma came in, which I discovered after researching the best ways for mature students to move into university study. The Access to HE course would provide me with an excellent route into university by teaching me a variety of skills within the engineering discipline, so I decided to take the leap and leave my job for academic study.


I was able to support myself financially on the course by taking advantage of the Advanced Learner Loan. This is a loan offered by the government that covers the cost of your Access course and is completely written off once you complete a higher education degree. My tutors were excellent and were always available to provide help if I needed it. The course can be intense, and at times I did feel somewhat overwhelmed with the amount of work I had to get through. But it was really helpful that my tutors were there if I needed to talk and support me through my studies.


I really enjoyed the coursework and because there were 15 different modules, it was varied and I was always writing about new and interesting things. Many of the coursework projects also involved a practical experiment, such as testing electrical circuits. I would highly recommend starting coursework as soon as you receive it so that you are always on top of your work and not getting overwhelmed.


I also formed study groups with my fellow students, where we could support each other with the work and tackle problems collectively. In a year of lockdowns and social distancing, I wasn’t expecting to be able to form friendships with other students, however the course turned out to be very social and I’m still in contact with many of the students I met on the course.


When I first applied to my universities of choice, I thought I would possibly be at a disadvantage compared to other applicants as I believed that universities would perhaps not value my Access to HE qualification as highly as the traditional A-Levels. However, this was not the case, and I had very positive responses from the universities I applied to. Universities valued my Diploma because it not only provided me with an excellent foundation in mathematics and physics, but also soft skills such as report writing and academic referencing.


Perhaps the best thing I gained from the Access to HE Diploma was a new confidence in my own ability. Before the course, my last study was at A-Level, which hadn’t gone very well and left me with the impression that I wasn’t cut out for academia. I therefore was determined to prove myself wrong and get the most I possibly could out of the course through hard work. By the end of the course, I had achieved 45 credits at distinction, which was enough to qualify me for all the universities I had applied to. I am now in my first year studying Computer Science at King’s College London. The new confidence I gained from studying the course, along with all the academic skills it taught me, meant that I was fully prepared for my degree.


In the future, after completing my undergraduate degree, I hope to study a Master’s in Computer Science, and possibly then move into the field of cryptography and cyber security, which is a field of computing research I find particularly interesting.


I would absolutely encourage anyone considering an Access to HE course to go for it! Taking the Diploma was one of the best decisions of my life; I made new friends, learnt new skills that will stay with me for the rest of my life and gained new confidence in my academic ability. The Access to HE Diploma provides the perfect platform into further higher-level study, especially for mature students like myself who previously held little to no formal qualifications. Do not be daunted if it’s been a while since you were last in full-time study, as the course provides you with the perfect platform to get up to speed.


Like any form of study, with an Access to HE Diploma, you get out what you put in. When you get to the end of the course, knowing that you’ve worked as hard as you could and achieved what you wanted to achieve, it’s the best feeling in the world. As long as you apply yourself, absolutely anyone can do well in an Access to HE Diploma!