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    Good evening forum. Please excuse the long post, but I'd like to make my position as clear as I can in order to get the best possible advice.

    Let me start quickly by introducing myself. My name's Colum, and this is my first real post on the forum. I'm 26, have not been in education for quite some time, and have now become adament on getting into uni life.

    When I graduated from high school at 16 in 2006 I started at college, but had no serious interest in education, and only did it because it was the 'thing to do'. I didn't get much from it, and dropped out after my first year, and so procured no a-levels (or AS) but I managed at least to bump up both my GCSE Science and Maths from D to C.

    And so, with those and my high school grades, I have a total of 5 C+ GCSE results - an A and B in English Language and Literature respectively, and a C in Science, Maths and Business & Communications. I don't know how much these will amount for now, given that I got them all 8-10 years ago, but the record is there.

    After dropping from college, I tried my hand at being an independent (music) trader, have travelled in Europe for a little while doing volunteer work, and have worked a number of no-skill paid jobs as a warehouse operative.

    Over the past three years I have developed an immense interest in Philosophy. For longer than this, I have always been interested in small pockets of Philosophy, but in more recent years I have developed a much stronger academic interest, and been very engaged in educating myself in all aspects of the subject - its history, key thinkers, key texts, most of the major arguments and debates, etc.

    Initially I wanted to be an independent author, and so I tried my best to educate myself. I acquired many introductory books, used the internet as a study resource, set myself time every day to learn (using techniques such as the Pomodoro Timer and services such as Memrise) and feel like I built up quite a strong foundation, even though the more I learned the more I realised that I needed to learn.

    After three years of this, I realised that it was foolish of me to not consider re-entering student life now that so much of my time and interest was occupied with studying, even if just for study's sake. The more I thought of this, the more excited I got about the idea of actually committing my time to full-time student/uni life, and the more I realised that, unlike when I was seventeen, I would actually now thrive as a student - education would no longer seem like an inconvenient obstacle to a career but would actually be very satisfying in itself.

    And so, ignorant of how people normally go about this at my age and experience level, I thought my only option would be to take a-levels from home as a self-taught student. This did seem possible, and I started to seriously look into taking 4-5 a-levels from home (supporting myself with part-time work whilst sharing bills with my partner), and I had it set in my head that this is what I would do. My partner is at university, and she went to an open day recently just to inquire for me, to find out if there was an easier way for mature students to make entrance. Afterall, although the route I set out was POSSIBLE, it was very thorny. It would take two years minimum, I would have no guidance (hard to afford private tutoring) which would be especially problematic for coursework as I'd only get one chance to submit, with no tutor to check it for me, and of course it costs a lot to sit the exams - for 4-5 course it was well in excess of £1000 with no guarantees (seeing as coursework and the like would be a 'one-shot' scenario).

    My partner returned with tips on things like Access to Higher Education courses, Foundation Courses, and even stories of the odd student being granted access based off personal experience and such). After surveying the options, it's still looking a little hazy.

    So this is where I need your help, what do YOU think my best option would be to go from here? Time and money are not issues IF the case is strong, but if I can reach uni in less than two years and without spending silly money that would be very good. But I am determined enough that I will do whatever it takes, I just want to take the most reasonable, sensible approach. Access courses seem like a good idea, but just how well recognised are they? I'd like to open myself up to the best university options possible, and am not willing to go at this half-baked, but at the same time I don't want to take a costly, strenuous and timely route if it is not actually not necessary.

    So please, advise me on how it was for you to enter higher education as a mature student, particularly if you didn't start out with any a-levels or significant work experience to show for yourself. Links, phone numbers, anecdotes, tips, ideas, everything welcome. Your help is very much appreciated.

    Thanks
    -- Colum
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    edit: I should add, my career plan for after university is to either to teach philosophy (not necessarily at uni but perhaps at college-level at least), or to write for journals, aswell as authoring my own works. Something in that area.
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    My advise would be to personally ring up any uni you're interested in and ask if they'd accept you and if you actually need to take more exams. Then apply through ucas for the coming September.

    It's never too late for am education. And sign up for student finance before the deadline
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    Access and foundation courses are good but can be quite expensive. I wouldn't do A levels by myself personaly its tough. You need to call up the univeristies that you might be interested, explain your situation and see what they say. With the foundation year it would only take a year. Other option is doing BTEC national diploma it takes 2 yrs, its in college but would limit which unis you can apply to. I would say foundation course is the best option if you can get in. Universities are quite keen on mature students as it makes their courses more "diverse" and drop out rates are lower usually. Its never to late to study so don't rush and don't stress.
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    When you phone the unis, (with a specific course in mind), don't give them your life story. Edit your narrative, and they'll ask you what they need to know.
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    A not too dissimilar predicament from mine, if you're up for moving away and doing the whole student lifestyle thing I'd recommend applying for Philosophy with a Foundation year course. Not too many universities offer the course but there's a wide enough choice. I'm doing the same for History, sent my application off late at the end of March and I'll be starting in September.
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    Thanks for the advice. I'll make a list of the universities that do philosophy courses I'm interested in and call them up.

    As for foundation courses, do they have any preliminary requirements - do I need some basic qualifications for that, or is it possible to get in on the basis of an interview? Same question for Access courses - I get that they're supposed to be step one, but surely they must have some way of filtering students rather than accepting just anybody. Thanks for the advice, I do get flustered searching through different sites for different universities for information, I think calling up the universities and speaking one-on-one is the best bet. Do universities normally have departments to call up specifically for this sort of thing? Also, would it be more sensible to sign-up for 2017 do you think, or is it still realistic to get in for 2016?
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    (Original post by PhantomHill)
    Thanks for the advice. I'll make a list of the universities that do philosophy courses I'm interested in and call them up.

    As for foundation courses, do they have any preliminary requirements - do I need some basic qualifications for that, or is it possible to get in on the basis of an interview? Same question for Access courses - I get that they're supposed to be step one, but surely they must have some way of filtering students rather than accepting just anybody. Thanks for the advice, I do get flustered searching through different sites for different universities for information, I think calling up the universities and speaking one-on-one is the best bet. Do universities normally have departments to call up specifically for this sort of thing? Also, would it be more sensible to sign-up for 2017 do you think, or is it still realistic to get in for 2016?
    Entry requirements vary, my GCSE's were great but I ended college with only two A levels. It's mostly judged on the strength of your personal statement, it's all about the passion you show for the subject. There's plenty of tips out there explaining how a mature student's PS should be different. I'd suggest either calling the Philosophy department or something called Life Long Learning (or similarly named) which will specialise in the foundation programmes offered. If you get the process going ASAP I don't see why you couldn't get on to a course starting in 2016.

    People are very torn between doing an Access course or a degree with a foundation year. I went against Access because you don't get any funding for studying it but if you do it then you're open to apply to many more universities as the foundation year is a tad niche. If all goes to plan I'll still be heading to a Russell Group in September so I'm glad I didn't tie myself to studying Access.
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    (Original post by PhantomHill)
    Good evening forum. Please excuse the long post, but I'd like to make my position as clear as I can in order to get the best possible advice.

    Let me start quickly by introducing myself. My name's Colum, and this is my first real post on the forum. I'm 26, have not been in education for quite some time, and have now become adament on getting into uni life.

    When I graduated from high school at 16 in 2006 I started at college, but had no serious interest in education, and only did it because it was the 'thing to do'. I didn't get much from it, and dropped out after my first year, and so procured no a-levels (or AS) but I managed at least to bump up both my GCSE Science and Maths from D to C.

    And so, with those and my high school grades, I have a total of 5 C+ GCSE results - an A and B in English Language and Literature respectively, and a C in Science, Maths and Business & Communications. I don't know how much these will amount for now, given that I got them all 8-10 years ago, but the record is there.

    After dropping from college, I tried my hand at being an independent (music) trader, have travelled in Europe for a little while doing volunteer work, and have worked a number of no-skill paid jobs as a warehouse operative.

    Over the past three years I have developed an immense interest in Philosophy. For longer than this, I have always been interested in small pockets of Philosophy, but in more recent years I have developed a much stronger academic interest, and been very engaged in educating myself in all aspects of the subject - its history, key thinkers, key texts, most of the major arguments and debates, etc.

    Initially I wanted to be an independent author, and so I tried my best to educate myself. I acquired many introductory books, used the internet as a study resource, set myself time every day to learn (using techniques such as the Pomodoro Timer and services such as Memrise) and feel like I built up quite a strong foundation, even though the more I learned the more I realised that I needed to learn.

    After three years of this, I realised that it was foolish of me to not consider re-entering student life now that so much of my time and interest was occupied with studying, even if just for study's sake. The more I thought of this, the more excited I got about the idea of actually committing my time to full-time student/uni life, and the more I realised that, unlike when I was seventeen, I would actually now thrive as a student - education would no longer seem like an inconvenient obstacle to a career but would actually be very satisfying in itself.

    And so, ignorant of how people normally go about this at my age and experience level, I thought my only option would be to take a-levels from home as a self-taught student. This did seem possible, and I started to seriously look into taking 4-5 a-levels from home (supporting myself with part-time work whilst sharing bills with my partner), and I had it set in my head that this is what I would do. My partner is at university, and she went to an open day recently just to inquire for me, to find out if there was an easier way for mature students to make entrance. Afterall, although the route I set out was POSSIBLE, it was very thorny. It would take two years minimum, I would have no guidance (hard to afford private tutoring) which would be especially problematic for coursework as I'd only get one chance to submit, with no tutor to check it for me, and of course it costs a lot to sit the exams - for 4-5 course it was well in excess of £1000 with no guarantees (seeing as coursework and the like would be a 'one-shot' scenario).

    My partner returned with tips on things like Access to Higher Education courses, Foundation Courses, and even stories of the odd student being granted access based off personal experience and such). After surveying the options, it's still looking a little hazy.

    So this is where I need your help, what do YOU think my best option would be to go from here? Time and money are not issues IF the case is strong, but if I can reach uni in less than two years and without spending silly money that would be very good. But I am determined enough that I will do whatever it takes, I just want to take the most reasonable, sensible approach. Access courses seem like a good idea, but just how well recognised are they? I'd like to open myself up to the best university options possible, and am not willing to go at this half-baked, but at the same time I don't want to take a costly, strenuous and timely route if it is not actually not necessary.

    So please, advise me on how it was for you to enter higher education as a mature student, particularly if you didn't start out with any a-levels or significant work experience to show for yourself. Links, phone numbers, anecdotes, tips, ideas, everything welcome. Your help is very much appreciated.

    Thanks
    -- Colum
    I'm halfway through sitting A levels as a home student right now. Like you, I basically started studying a bit (to get a journalism qualification), then realised I how much I enjoyed it and decided to try for university.

    Altogether, since 2014 I've resat all my GCSEs, and AS levels, and now I'm about to sit the A2s. I guess there is loads I could say, but I'll just keep it to A levels, and if you want to know anything else just ask.

    You really don't need to bother paying for any course materials. All you need is a copy of the syllabus, the official books and the internet. But, I would say you definitely need some guidance. I've been lucky to have tutors who help me on Skype. So I'll do, say, a chapter of a unit and write an essay on it, then go through that with them. Most of all though, I think you need help with past papers to get good exam results.

    So you could find private tutors, or you could pay an online college, but then make sure you are getting good tutor support as opposed to paying mainly for some course notes you don't need. I don't think philosophy would have coursework, but if it does you need an online college to help with that.

    Two other things - I'm paying about 300 to sit five exams this summer. A grand or whatever you were quoted sounds a lot. 'Specialist' external candidate centers are expensive. And maybe an access course is better for you, I don't know. But I can say I've loved doing A levels, and I've never felt disadvantaged in the slightest bit by my situation, throughout the whole application process.

    Like I said, I could waffle on for ages, but just ask if there is something specific you want to know.
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    No one has mentioned doing the 120 credits with Open University over 1 or two years. You take those 120 credits and are able to transfer to a traditional brick university into year 2. Missing year 1 and Alevels (The uni would probably still require GCSE's) but OU year 1 modules are Alevels and go just beyond Alevel standard, which are what most year 1 uni courses are like. It costs thousands of pounds less in tuition and you can work full time.

    Open University run a 2+2 scheme (aka Open Plus) for science degrees and it gives you a guaranteed place on a university course if you meet grade requirements. Maybe they have it for BA degrees.
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    Thanks for the advice everyone

    To MouseyBrown - can how much do you pay for tutors?

    Thanks
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    (Original post by PhantomHill)
    Good evening forum. Please excuse the long post, but I'd like to make my position as clear as I can in order to get the best possible advice.

    Let me start quickly by introducing myself. My name's Colum, and this is my first real post on the forum. I'm 26, have not been in education for quite some time, and have now become adament on getting into uni life.

    When I graduated from high school at 16 in 2006 I started at college, but had no serious interest in education, and only did it because it was the 'thing to do'. I didn't get much from it, and dropped out after my first year, and so procured no a-levels (or AS) but I managed at least to bump up both my GCSE Science and Maths from D to C.

    And so, with those and my high school grades, I have a total of 5 C+ GCSE results - an A and B in English Language and Literature respectively, and a C in Science, Maths and Business & Communications. I don't know how much these will amount for now, given that I got them all 8-10 years ago, but the record is there.

    After dropping from college, I tried my hand at being an independent (music) trader, have travelled in Europe for a little while doing volunteer work, and have worked a number of no-skill paid jobs as a warehouse operative.

    Over the past three years I have developed an immense interest in Philosophy. For longer than this, I have always been interested in small pockets of Philosophy, but in more recent years I have developed a much stronger academic interest, and been very engaged in educating myself in all aspects of the subject - its history, key thinkers, key texts, most of the major arguments and debates, etc.

    Initially I wanted to be an independent author, and so I tried my best to educate myself. I acquired many introductory books, used the internet as a study resource, set myself time every day to learn (using techniques such as the Pomodoro Timer and services such as Memrise) and feel like I built up quite a strong foundation, even though the more I learned the more I realised that I needed to learn.

    After three years of this, I realised that it was foolish of me to not consider re-entering student life now that so much of my time and interest was occupied with studying, even if just for study's sake. The more I thought of this, the more excited I got about the idea of actually committing my time to full-time student/uni life, and the more I realised that, unlike when I was seventeen, I would actually now thrive as a student - education would no longer seem like an inconvenient obstacle to a career but would actually be very satisfying in itself.

    And so, ignorant of how people normally go about this at my age and experience level, I thought my only option would be to take a-levels from home as a self-taught student. This did seem possible, and I started to seriously look into taking 4-5 a-levels from home (supporting myself with part-time work whilst sharing bills with my partner), and I had it set in my head that this is what I would do. My partner is at university, and she went to an open day recently just to inquire for me, to find out if there was an easier way for mature students to make entrance. Afterall, although the route I set out was POSSIBLE, it was very thorny. It would take two years minimum, I would have no guidance (hard to afford private tutoring) which would be especially problematic for coursework as I'd only get one chance to submit, with no tutor to check it for me, and of course it costs a lot to sit the exams - for 4-5 course it was well in excess of £1000 with no guarantees (seeing as coursework and the like would be a 'one-shot' scenario).

    My partner returned with tips on things like Access to Higher Education courses, Foundation Courses, and even stories of the odd student being granted access based off personal experience and such). After surveying the options, it's still looking a little hazy.

    So this is where I need your help, what do YOU think my best option would be to go from here? Time and money are not issues IF the case is strong, but if I can reach uni in less than two years and without spending silly money that would be very good. But I am determined enough that I will do whatever it takes, I just want to take the most reasonable, sensible approach. Access courses seem like a good idea, but just how well recognised are they? I'd like to open myself up to the best university options possible, and am not willing to go at this half-baked, but at the same time I don't want to take a costly, strenuous and timely route if it is not actually not necessary.

    So please, advise me on how it was for you to enter higher education as a mature student, particularly if you didn't start out with any a-levels or significant work experience to show for yourself. Links, phone numbers, anecdotes, tips, ideas, everything welcome. Your help is very much appreciated.

    Thanks
    -- Colum
    Hi, i read your post so thought i'd share my story. I dropped out of school in year 10 and ultimately only completed 3 GCSE's. I worked various jobs over a 10 year period and decided to try and go to uni at age 26. I did an access course at my local college which was paid for via a loan from the student loan company. They offer loans for Access which you do not have to pay back if you complete a degree program. I was given low offers from uni's, compared to A-Level students - ultimately accepted into 5 Russell Group universities. I got distinctions in every unit of the Access, but even those that didn't got achievable offers to good uni's. People from my Access course got into UCL, Bristol, Exeter etc. I've now just finished my 2nd year in politics and i'm on my way to a first. Don't be put off going back into education. I would definitely recommend an Access as a good way back in. If you've got any specific questions then let me know.
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    If anybody considering further education as a mature student stumbles upon this thread, I'd like you to know that I did enroll on an Access course and wound up getting 4 out of 5 university offers (I was rejected by Bristol only because they needed a B minimum in Math) and am starting at the University of East Anglia this September (Politics & Philosophy).

    I want to thank everybody that helped me out in this thread a year ago, a lot has happened since then and I haven't regretted a second of it!
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    (Original post by PhantomHill)
    If anybody considering further education as a mature student stumbles upon this thread, I'd like you to know that I did enroll on an Access course and wound up getting 4 out of 5 university offers (I was rejected by Bristol only because they needed a B minimum in Math) and am starting at the University of East Anglia this September (Politics & Philosophy).

    I want to thank everybody that helped me out in this thread a year ago, a lot has happened since then and I haven't regretted a second of it!
    Congratulations! Hope it goes well
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    After returning to study at 33 I began an Access to HE course in Computing and ICT.

    I think the most crucial thing I've learned that I didn't realise before is that assignment writing at this and university level is all about reasearch. Seriously it's basically plagiarism but you need to make sure you cite sources correctly both in text and your list of references.

    I began my essays initially thinking I needed to write my own definitions and explanations for everything to fully demonstrate my understanding of the topic. The concept of citing sources for definitions and explanations felt like cheating and I would go to extraordinary effort to learn and digest material to be able to write my assignments completely in my own words.

    Once I grasped citing sources, the concept of secondary research and getting over how much like cheating it felt it became much easier to put assignments together.

    One of my classmates explained it best to me: My knowledge is worthless because who the hell am I and what credentials can I back up statements I make with? No one is interested in my explanation of something as an unqualified nobody, but if I can demonstrate finding good sources for information, demonstrate understanding those sources well enough to use them appropriately, and use solid techniques like triangulation strategies to support my explanations then maybe people will think what I say is worth listening to.

    Once I got to grips with that technique of assignment writing I genuinely don't understand how anyone gets in trouble for plagiarism.
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    (Original post by PhantomHill)
    If anybody considering further education as a mature student stumbles upon this thread, I'd like you to know that I did enroll on an Access course and wound up getting 4 out of 5 university offers (I was rejected by Bristol only because they needed a B minimum in Math) and am starting at the University of East Anglia this September (Politics & Philosophy).

    I want to thank everybody that helped me out in this thread a year ago, a lot has happened since then and I haven't regretted a second of it!
    Just out of curiosity what were the other university's ?
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    Done. Good luck! x
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    (Original post by PhantomHill)
    If anybody considering further education as a mature student stumbles upon this thread, I'd like you to know that I did enroll on an Access course and wound up getting 4 out of 5 university offers (I was rejected by Bristol only because they needed a B minimum in Math) and am starting at the University of East Anglia this September (Politics & Philosophy).

    I want to thank everybody that helped me out in this thread a year ago, a lot has happened since then and I haven't regretted a second of it!
    That's amazing! Well done on making what you wanted to achieve a reality!
 
 
 
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