Jenifer MacFarlane
Access to Biological Sciences
High school was one of the worst times of my life and not the positive, exciting experience that it should have been or an environment that I could thrive in. Leaving school early, I always felt I had been written off and discarded, my self-belief was non-existent. With little options and no idea what direction to take, I was fortunate to gain a place at the International School Of Beauty in Edinburgh, where I discovered an interest in health and human biology and that a mature learning environment worked best for me. Although I enjoyed it and achieved high grades, I was very shy and didn’t have the self-confidence to pursue it as a career. 

I moved into Dental Nursing, an area of dentistry that was changing, where you had to be qualified and registered to work. I thrived in the environment and knew quickly that this was an area that I was keen to pursue. I desperately wanted to learn more, gain more responsibility and to be actively involved in patient treatment. However, when I was repeatedly advised that I didn’t have the necessary qualifications and that it was an extremely competitive route, the little confidence I did have, was gone completely. Having worked in hospitality alongside my studies, I continued with this route and gave up on the idea of ever progressing in the dental field. However, it was always in the back of my mind. 

Fast forward 5 years, I worked as Cabin Crew for Emirates Airline and British Airways. This equipped me with many life skills and valuable experiences but I knew for myself, it was not something that I could continue to do in the long term. I returned to Dental Nursing, continuing for the next 2 years gaining experience and confidence as a Dental Nurse but I was still years away from becoming a Dental Hygienist-Therapist. 

The Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions that followed acted as the catalyst.  I had been aware of SWAP for many years but never thought I would even be good enough to secure a place but jumped at the chance when I was given the opportunity. It was the best decision I have ever made.    

The first few months were extremely challenging and I struggled initially as I had never studied some of the subjects before. I often doubted that I could do it. The tutors at college were incredibly encouraging and supportive despite the ever changing challenges that Covid-19 presented them with. Although we were rarely in college due to the pandemic and mostly online, our small group of classmates formed a strong bond and we helped each other wherever possible. This played a huge part in my success throughout the year. I put every spare moment into my studies, achieving all A grades and securing a much sought after place on the Oral Health Science degree programme at Glasgow Caledonian University and was awarded “Academic Student Of The Year”.  I never imagined I would get here.   

For anyone contemplating the SWAP programme, I cannot praise it highly enough. Not only has the programme given me a fast track route to University, it has also given me a self confidence that I have never had before and I could not be more grateful. High school and the “general” route that is expected of us, is not suited to everyone. For those looking at pursuing a particularly competitive course, although places may be limited and it may be difficult to secure one, with hard work and determination, it is possible!
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