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Late application with little qualification

Hey, I'm looking for some advice on how to tackle future university applications. I am 22 and have been working in Cyber Security for the last 4 and a half years. I am however aiming of studying psychopharmacology or another neuropsychopharmacology related degree in a university that compliments this (such as Bristol University, Imperial College London).

As impossible as It seems right now, it is quite important to me that I try everything I can to able to achieve this for the start of the year in September. Currently I am struggling to see this as a possibility. Early applications are closed and the only qualifications I currently have are low grades (three Ds) in exclusively performing arts subjects from my A levels, and a qualification as a Level 4 Cyber Security Technologist (which is considered to be of similar equivalence to a foundational year).

Why the sudden switch?

Leaving a comfortable, generously paying job with endless career progression opportunities was a tough decision to make. Though I have not lost interest in security, generally maturing and having a better understanding of what I want from life has pushed me in this direction that I've contemplated for many years.

Battling through my fair share of episodes with severe depression and anxiety over the recent years, I have only just learnt to find support when it is needed. This plays a significant role in reigniting confidence in my own abilities. As much as staying comfortable sounds enticing, I am ready for a tough, daunting journey with a strong desire to give it my all.

As a sort of science head growing up, being raised by Vsauce grew into a massive passion in physics during my teenage years. This is something that I still feel is inherently part of me that I didn't pursue for reasons discussed, as well as my then focus on Music/Violin. Drug research has been something that has fascinated me from early childhood (as unlikely as it sounds)! I've always found obsession in how different chemicals can interact with the body and brain to change how it inherently functions. Though my interest expands across pharmaceutical drugs and biology, this is especially true when it comes to psychoactive drugs (yes I get the cliché, no this is not some new "enlightenment").

I have always felt very passionately for the history of drug policy and it's effect on society and research. For example, the effect of categorising abused substances effectively banning certain types of previously deemed promising research. Some of my biggest inspirations include The Mind by David Sapolsky (along with his public lectures), Robin Carhart Hariss and David Nutt.

I first-hand have seen from family members and friends the negative effects the miscommunication, under-research and poor habitual use treatments of drugs has had. Contributing to a better understanding of drugs I feel would be a personally very fulfilling goal for myself. I would also really appreciate this being an opportunity where I could potentially help a lot of people, a feat that I find inspiring.

What can I do to achieve this?

I'm assuming that demonstrating some key skills surrounding scientific subjects such as referencing, structuring of studies and an understanding of the scientific method is desirable when someone such as myself is applying. I've been thinking of doing my own research and using freely accessible resources such as publicly posted lectures to help guide me. I want to do this both out of interest and as proof that I can be a cable student. I have recently discussed this opportunity with some of my currently studying and graduated friends in scientific fields whom have encouraged me that this is a good idea.

I am hoping my age and experience in learning and employment in Cyber security is seen as an additional form of credibility, though I am not familiar with how universities respond to others in similar positions, especially with late applications.

I'm still feeling pretty lost right now on where to even begin so I am very open to any advice anyone can provide. Primarily I am looking for some help with the following questions.

- Anyone who has had experiences with students that were in similar situations, how did they deal with their applications and what worked/didn't.

- Which qualifications may I acquire in my own time that will have relevance to universities in my desired field.

- What other independent learning capabilities can I exert?

- What additional actions can I take to demonstrate that I am commited.

- When should I start applying for places, or when should I start communicating with universities I am looking to join.

- What should I focus on when applying for placements as someone with little to no current qualifications in the context of psychopharmacology.

- Still quite unfamiliar with UCAS, how could I potentially utilise it to achieve my goal of entering university this year.

- Historically, what conditional offers have been given to students in similar positions?

Apologies for the lengthy background, hopefully it gives some relevant context. Massive thank you to those who've stuck around and read through!
Reply 1
Have a look at what each university says about mature students and / or alternative qualifications on their websites. You might be able to apply to a foundation year in science or even better an integrated foundation year.

To get in this year you need to look at UCAS and search for degrees with spaces (you apply that filter). You’ll need a reference

I would recommend targeting a range of universities not just Russell Group ones. Post 92 universities in particular may offer courses with a year in industry. You can apply now or after 30 June through clearing. Many courses will already be full so be prepared to be flexible or apply for 2025 entry.

Good luck
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