Student Blog Squad

Being the first in my family to go to university

Hi, I’m Hamza, a second year Primary Education student at Leeds Beckett. In this blog I’ll be talking about my experience being the first one in the family to go to university.

Book shelves in university library

I understand that it can be daunting and quite intimidating being the first in the family to think about and apply to university. You may feel unsure of what course you want to do and where to look for useful information throughout the application process. I've been in that position and so in this blog I will be shedding a little light on those worries and concerns you may have, to try and help you. 

How I found out about university

I first found out about university through my sixth form. They mentioned that those who wanted to attend further study needed to start writing up their personal statements and thinking about the application process. This was all new to me, I had no idea where to start and figured I should browse the UCAS website for courses that stood out to me and take it from there. After finding my desired course, I used online resources along with support from my tutor to guide me through drafting my personal statement, linking it to my desired course as much as possible.

During this time, my sixth form tutors and school careers team were my main form of guidance, whereas a lot of my peers were familiar with the application process from their family members who attended university.

Pressures I faced

Being the first in the family to access higher education may come with outside pressures. You may have family telling you to pick more traditionally academic courses and to avoid the more creative, practical ones. You may also feel scared to enter the course you want because your friends are going elsewhere. I found that it's important not to let these outside pressures influence your course choice. Pick something you want to do, something you will enjoy. I remember when applying to university my family were set on me entering the medical field, but after picking Biology for A-levels, I knew that the medical field was not for me. I wanted to study Primary Education, a course I was passionate about and so that's what I did.

Passion and drive are what will push you to do your best and thrive on your course. Choose a course that you want to do, not one that others have chosen for you.

You're not alone

Some courses also have interviews and navigating through all that can be difficult (especially if you are the first in your family to attend higher education). For my interview, I got an email highlighting what I needed to bring with me, this was really helpful. It explained exactly what we were going to be doing at the interview, so that I could prepare. The interview consisted of two parts, first we had a group discussion and then we were interviewed on an individual basis. I was given a postcard from the interviewer which told me what they liked about me at the interview. Interviews can be scary but just remember that they are all part of the process of moving into higher education and the world of work. 

Remember that the university teams are always there to help guide you through this stage.

My top tips

  1. When applying to university it’s important to know that you need to check your emails daily. It is the main way that the university will contact you with info on application related matters, induction info, and it’s also where student finance will contact you with information on funding your studies.
  2. Reach out to people you meet in online group chats for university or people you meet at Open Days and interviews. You are not alone, and your peers can be a great form of guidance and support along the way.
  3. Remember that accessing higher education is a big step, especially if you have broken out a family or community education cycle to get to this stage. Be proud of yourself and continue to work hard to succeed in education. 

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