Student Blog Squad

Applying to university as a student aged 21+

Hi, I’m Hina and in this blog I’ll be talking about my experience applying to university at the age of 21, my motivations for doing this and how I found the process.

notebook and pen

My life experience before university

At the age of 18, I finished my BTEC extended diploma in Creative Media Studies and although lots of people my age were heading off to uni, I hadn’t really felt like I had wanted to go down that path at that time. I felt unsure about exactly what I wanted to study and so for this reason, I decided to try something different and go straight into the workplace.

After applying to many apprenticeships, I was fortunate to have gotten an interview within the NHS. And after that, I was offered the role of an apprentice healthcare assistant within a palliative care centre. I worked in a hospice supporting individuals who had life-limiting illnesses and were towards the end of their lives. It was definitely sometimes emotionally challenging but knowing that I was a part of a close-knit team of nurses and practitioners helping to provide the best care and quality of life for patients was fulfilling. I am extremely grateful for my experience at the hospice, being a part of creating a warm and uplifting environment for wonderful people. I was very happy in my previous role, but it was it was during my apprenticeship that I started to think about where I wanted to be and where I could see myself in the future.

My reasons for applying to university

It was at this point that I started to seriously think about my options, what I wanted for myself and my career. I started to think about university again but in a different light this time. The idea appealed to me but I wanted to make sure that I chose something that I would genuinely enjoy. Because I still didn’t have my mind set on a specific job or career, I wanted to study something quite broad. Something that would reflect my values - I wanted to help people while also exploring the behind the scenes of healthcare rather than just the frontline. I did some research and landed on the BSc course Public Health and Society. After reading about the course and the many careers available, I decided this was the one for me and it ticked the boxes I was looking for.

The application process

The application process for university was in fact quite simple but I did encounter a few challenges. I felt overwhelmed by the initial steps but once it got going, everything felt cool. I think it’s the anxiety of not knowing, especially if you’ve not done the application process or seen it before. There’s some really useful student blogs which break down the stages of the UCAS application form and what to include in each part here. I applied to five universities and felt lucky to have received unconditional offers from all of my choices. I was choosing between Leeds Beckett and another university and I made the decision to choose to study in Leeds. Although it was almost three hours away from my hometown, I was familiar with the city and I had heard many positive things about the university itself. 

The university Applicant Days and Open Days were super interactive and when I spoke to the leader of my course I immediately felt like this was the university for me.

Writing my personal statement

The personal statement is probably one of the lengthiest parts of the application form. When it came to writing my personal statement, I didn’t really have any support from a school or college environment as I had just left my apprenticeship and it had been a few years since I’d been in contact with my tutors. So, I crafted it myself. I did my own research on how to structure and write a personal statement. To be quite honest, researching on my own was a challenge as it was a time consuming thing to do, but well worth it! The UCAS website had some helpful tips and information on writing this section of the application which really helped me. After some thorough research, the structuring and writing of my personal statement took me around a month. Crafting my personal statement was quite fun for me because I genuinely enjoy writing, especially when it is about my passions and the ability to be expressive in my writing.

My top tips for writing your personal statement

  • Make sure you allocate enough time to research the best ways to approach your personal statement, using the resources available online and on university communications.
  • Create a simple but constructive plan and structure for your statement, so that you don't get confused or lost in all the words once you get started.
  • Don't be afraid to be honest. Remember your personal statement is a reflection of yourself, your hobbies and your life experiences. You want to stand out.

Using previous life and work experience to my advantage

 When thinking about what to include in my personal statement, I made sure to research the course and write about things relevant to Public Health. I aimed to make my knowledge on the degree visible to show that I understood the discipline I was choosing to study. If you have previous work experience before university, use it to your advantage.

My apprenticeship was a key factor in demonstrating that my work and life experience was integral in my development of person-centred skills, highlighting my empathetic nature and a boost in my confidence overall. The transferrable skills I developed and highlighted in my personal statement included effective teamwork and collaboration which I had learned from interacting with the nurses and other health professionals in our team as well as communicating effectively with my manager when necessary. My time management skills were also developed as I had a daily routine which I adhered to. Overall, my personal statement focused on the transferrable skills that I am extremely fortunate to have developed in an NHS care setting, applying them to my aspirations and highlighting that I am keen and willing to learn more.

How it felt applying to uni at the age of 21

I was always aware that I wouldn’t be an 18 year old student who had just completed their A-levels or college course. I’ll admit, I did feel quite nervous about the prospect that I could perhaps be the only 21 year old (or over 18 years of age) student on my course. I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in with the younger students, and that I would find it to be quite overwhelming or difficult to make friends. However, I was pleased to find that my peers were of a variety of ages! We were all at different stages in our lives and our experiences were different. Becoming relaxed within my course group was easy and having a wonderful tutor supporting us was comforting and calming too.

Don't be afraid to apply to university if you're over 21. There is support available for you in the application process and I can guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised by the experience. 

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