Spotlight on Access to HE alumna, Emma Ostle | NSCG
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3rd May 2023

Keele University student, Emma Ostle began her journey back into education as an adult learner in her thirties. We recently chatted to Emma to hear how studying the Access to HE Diploma (Social Sciences and Humanities) has helped her to study at university whilst raising four children.

"I didn't complete any GCSE's at school and went onto 6th form to complete a Level 3 qualification in Health and Social care back in 2005. After this, I mainly worked in the care sector, but working unsocial hours and all over Christmas prompted me to really think about my future and I set about looking to change my career path.

Thinking about returning to study as an adult learner was a huge decision. I researched what options were available to me as a mature student living at home with children that wanted to attend university. I had two options - study an Access to HE Diploma or complete an additional year at university studying a foundation year. After weighing up my options, I decided to do an Access to HE Diploma because I had no previous experience in education, other that 6th form which was a distant memory.

Emma Ostle Keele

A family member had actually just completed the diploma and gave me lots of information and advice. I then filled out an online application form and was contacted by a careers advisor at college to have a chat about the area I wanted to further my studies in. This was brilliant! I was also invited along to an open day, where the process was further explained, and from that day, I was party of the Access to HE study group for that academic year.

The support on offer to me was a big plus, and having access to several tutors to ease me back into study seemed a great option for me. I researched the financial side of things, which I would advise anyone to do. A foundation year at university would have started my student debt off, whereas the Access to HE Diploma was government funded and if I progressed to university, I would study for free.

As part of the process, you will be invited along to a 'return to learn' day, where I was assisted in form filling to apply for the funds to pay for the course. This was fantastic, and helped me to overcome lots of my concerns about the financial side of studying. I was so surprised to hear that as long as I enrolled onto a university course within three years of completing the Access to HE Diploma would be free.

You can access other financial support if you need it. I'm a mum of four and having a SEN child and baby at the time I was looking to study meant that the college funded me childcare allowances during my time at NSCG. This really is a big deal, so take their advice and expertise on board to help you to get what you're entitled to.

Before studying at NSCG, I was thinking about how I would manage with the school run and getting into college. I developed a routine of dropping my children at school and continuing onto college. Luckily, I do drive so this was one barrier I didn't have to face, but if you do rely on public transport, the tutors are really understanding if you are late. They know how tough it can be juggling everything.

Obviously studying as an adult learner does impact family life, although it was all worth it. My main thing was finding the time to prepare evening meals and study. So, I got really organised and got in the habit of batch cooking at the weekend an on my days off. Like everything in life, you do adapt, so don't be put off.

Overall, the best part of my journey with Stafford College was learning new things, meeting new friends and really learning about their journey too. These guys will be your support network, so take the time to get to know your peers. I love my children dearly, but it is so nice to to something that doesn't centre around them, so really make the most of college life. The knowledge I have gained has been life-changing. From knowing how to reference and write essays, I developed friendships with people of all ages and has given me the confidence to get involved in educated conversations.

Life after NSCG has seen me progress to study Psychology and Education at Keele University and I'm just about to complete my first year. I am so proud of everything I've achieved. Once I complete my degree, I want to go straight on to complete a Master's Degree and study part-time. Then fingers crossed, a Ph.D to help me to become an Educational Psychologist.

Find out more about studying an Access to HE Diploma here.