Steve Page
Access to Life Sciences
In April 2017 I left the military after 14 ¼ years and after looking at the job market, I realised that my 20 years old Highers from school, weren’t really a strong selling point.  I contacted a local university regarding the entry criteria for a mature student and the admissions team gave me the run down on what the SWAP access was, what it entailed and the fact that it would be the best route for me to look at applying for university.  I then looked at the available courses and decided on the Access to life Sciences course at Dundee and Angus College.

I was nervous about starting college, not because of what it was, but I was worried that I would be sat in room full of 18 – 22-year-olds who I had nothing in common with.  The experience couldn’t have been further from my preconceived idea if it tried.  The class I joined had a huge range of age and life experience and was a really good bunch of guys and girls.  I had an absolute blast at college, even tackling biology, which I had avoided at school all those years ago.  I made some really good friends and enjoyed all of it.  The lecturers were excellent and the range of topics covered chemistry, biology, maths, communication and microbiology, so it was a really eye opener.  I honestly can’t rate the course highly enough.

After what seemed like a whirlwind 9 months, college was over and I had successfully applied to St Andrews University and been accepted.  Aug 2018 saw me start initially studying for a BSc in Medicinal chemistry.  Again, the spectre of being double the age of my classmates briefly entered my mind, however, the people on my courses have been brilliant.  There is a surprising mix of ages and experience. It helps that everyone is in the same boat and we all just get on with it.  I have definitely found being older to my advantage, especially when it comes to things like presentations and speaking in front of large groups.  Being experienced in managing my time is has also been really useful, especially when it comes to managing university, work and my young family.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience so far.   

Currently I am in third year studying for a BSc in Cell Biology.  During first year I noticed I preferred biology to chemistry and made the switch in degree paths.  This was really simple and the university were really supportive.  Its not all been study though.  I am involved with the ambassador scheme where I take tours of St Andrews, meet applicants on open days, visit schools and colleges and deliver talks on my student experience.  I also joined the coffee society, the cocktail society and the rock society, in what little spare time I have.  I also play rugby and coach youth rugby at my local club.  

Once I complete my degree, I intend to apply for either medicine or nursing and go on to qualify as either a doctor or a registered nurse.  None of which had even entered my head back in 2017 when I first looked at studying.  Completing the SWAP access course and going on to university has been life changing.  I never would have thought I would be where I am now. I’d never really entertained the thought of university, as all my learning in the workplace had been of a more vocational style and not the academic.  If you are considering applying for the course but don’t know if its for you, the best advice I can give you is to give it a go.  You might not realise that the only thing holding you back, might just be you.

Update - February 2022

Currently I am looking at moving into the occupational health field of employment as I have an upcoming interview.  I am also considering continuing studying, as I have unconditional offers for a place studying either adult nursing or mental health nursing.  Again, neither of these fields were something I had any clue about on leaving the forces, let alone would have considered for employment.     I honestly can't rate the whole SWAP process highly enough.  It's simple to apply and if you are willing to put the effort in it can take you places you would never even have thought possible.  It has opened a lot of doors for me, employment wise, which would have remained closed if i hadn't gone back into education.  
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