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From Realising Opportunities in a State School to Warwick Scholars
No one would have believed that a ‘working class’ Black, Asian & Minority Ethnicity (BAME) student, from an underperforming state school, would have secured a place at a prestigious university. This is exactly what I did and here’s how it happened!
Growing up in a low participation area, where going to university wasn’t the norm, had meant that the odds were always against me. Neither of my parents had been to university. These factors including others, such as low household income, mean an individual is from a poor social mobility background. Basically, this means it’s harder to ‘work your way up’ including progressing from Sixth Form/College to University, compared to other people.
Think of it as a long-distance race. The finish line can be whatever you like; university, apprenticeship, job or another milestone. Those coming from poor social mobility areas begin at the very starting point. Our peers with better circumstances begin further ahead in the field. We may have different abilities/speeds, but those at the start have the longest distance to cover.
Indeed, I had little idea what university is like until I attended the TeachFirst Futures Easter School at the University of Oxford. This was the first time I had been away from home by myself and it was an amazing experience! From the social events to studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics, I realised that I wanted to go to a top university. However, the dream to attend a prestigious university like Oxford or Warwick was going to be challenging, given my social background.
One way to increase the likelihood of receiving an offer is to make the most of the available opportunities. Often, students from poor social mobility backgrounds qualify for academic, social and financial support from various charities and institutions. The Realising Opportunities programme enabled me to be mentored. It was a real boost to get their support in reviewing my personal statement and answering any questions that I had. The real benefit of this programme was receiving an alternative contextual offer from the partner universities, which took away some of the pressure. Other programmes, including the Sutton Trust Summer School at the University of Cambridge, allowed me to get involved in many activities and work on exciting projects. The best way to know if university is for you is to experience it. Therefore, summer schools are great experiences to mention in UCAS personal statements.
Additionally, the University of Warwick supported me to achieve my grades through their A-Level revision bootcamp. It was definitely a real grade booster! It was refreshing being taught from a different perspective by the subject leaders, which included A-Level examiners! By working with other students from across the country, I was able to learn from their experiences and apply it to my studies. Overall, by communicating with such students, I realised the wider environment is very impactful on our education. There can be constant negativity and a lack of motivation expressed by others. There will be tiring days and nights. The work can be tough. However, nobody is alone and it’s important to remain resilient because the hard-work pays off in the end.
Fast-forward to arriving at university, I feared an absence of such support. The Warwick Scholars Programme allowed me to settle in. From receiving the bursary to the academic skills workshops, I have been able to grow in confidence. Throughout term, there are many social events, where scholars get together and relax- with pizza!
As an individual coming from one of the worst areas for social mobility in Britain, I have not let socio-economic factors become barriers to my educational success. Neither should you.