Andrew Johnston
Access to Engineering
After leaving high school with a fairly average set of Highers, I had resigned myself to a life of working away at low-skill and low-satisfaction jobs. After spending three years in a call centre, I decided to take back control of my life; for me, this meant getting back into education. After completing a Level 5 NC in an Access to Engineering course (and enjoying it!), I enrolled onto the SWAP Access to Engineering programme via Edinburgh College. I chose engineering as I enjoy learning how and why things work, and I chose the SWAP programme as it serves as excellent preparation for university – I wanted to see how far I could go!

The SWAP Access to Engineering programme was, admittedly, challenging. It is a significant step up from high school work, and there is an expectation for you to regularly undertake self-directed study, attend classes, and ask questions. In hindsight, the SWAP course was very useful in this regard as these are critical skills which aren’t just encouraged at university but are required to succeed. The classes themselves are broad and varied, ranging from thermodynamics to differential calculus, and really let you hit the ground running in the first year of university.

After passing the SWAP Access to Engineering programme, I am happy to say that I was offered a place at each university I had applied to; several months later, I was enrolled as a BEng student at Heriot-Watt University! After several years, I transferred to an MEng programme, where I eventually graduated with a 2.1. All in all, I had gone from a school leaver with mediocre grades to a graduate with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, all thanks to undertaking the SWAP Access to Engineering programme.

Amongst the many things I learned at University, I realised that I had a strong interest in combining biology and engineering; to support this, following graduation, I spent several months working for SRUC in their biological laboratory. During my time there, I applied for a PhD with Edinburgh University to study Bioengineering, which, after several interviews, I am very happy to say I was accepted onto with a full University scholarship. To say I’m chuffed is an understatement! Following my PhD, I am considering going down the academic route and working as a University lecturer – ‘giving back’ after all the years of education I’ve gone through.

To anyone considering a SWAP programme in any field, I would say, go for it and get stuck in. Life is full of choices, and it’s up to you to get out there an grab them. Even if you’re unsure as to what area you’d like to go into (there’s a lot of them!), you might just find your niche and end up doing something you love.
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