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Q&A with Access to HE adult learner Karen Carey

Recent Student of the Month Winner, Karen Carey, 44, joined us at Newcastle College in September after enrolling on the Access to HE Diploma (Social Science). As she comes to the end of her journey at NSCG, we chatted to Karen about her experiences of returning to education as an adult learner.

Why did you choose to return to education as an adult learner?

I originally wanted to gain my GCSE English as I'd be out of employment for a while raising my four children.  I got a D at school, so I really needed to get this. I'm a small business owner and I make wax melts, but wanted to do more. I found that every job that I looked to apply for needed me to have the GCSE qualification. So, this is actually where my journey back into education began.

Before having children, did you train in another career?

Yes, I actually worked as a dental nurse!

What attracted you study the Access to HE Diploma (Social Science) pathway at Newcastle College?

I was studying for my GCSE English, and there were quite a few adult learners who were also studying one of the Access to HE Diplomas at the same time. As my confidence grew, and I realised that I could pass the GCSE, I knew that I want to go further and better myself to retrain, possibly in education.

Returning to education as an adult learner is very different from studying as a younger person. How have your tutors supported you on on your Access journey?

I have been really supported by my tutors, especially with guidance around my academic writing. Not only that, I have been supported emotionally when life just happens. Being a mum to four children, you never know what is going to happen day to day. The team have also helped to identify that I may have a learning difficulty. I originally thought that I may have dyslexia, however I am currently awaiting tests for Irlen Syndrome, which is a visual processing disorder which has been organised by college.


What has been the biggest challenge during your studies?

Checking my word has been my biggest challenge. With the possibility of Irlen Syndrome, this could explain my difficulties when proof-reading and making sure my work is academically accurate.

What has been the best thing about studying as an adult learner?

I recently received a Student of the Month award which has made me feel proud of my achievements. The confidence and knowledge that I'm gaining everyday has been amazing.

How has the Advanced Learner Loan helped?

I wouldn't have been able to afford the course fees without the help of the Advanced Learner Loan. The best thing is that when I complete my degree, this will be wiped, meaning that I don't pay anything back.

What's next for you?

I am planning to progress to Staffordshire University to study a dual honours degree in Psychology and Child Development. After that, I'm unsure at the moment on my chosen career pathway. I'm thinking of either training as a psychology teacher or educational psychologist.

Finally, what would you say to other people in your position, who are considering taking 'the leap' back into education or training?

I would definitely recommend it to anyone. It may seem daunting and regardless of your age, it's never too late to just go for it. The course really changes you and prepares you for that next step.

Places are still available on our Access to HE Diplomas starting this September. Find out more.