Ian McConnell
Access to Social Sciences
 I left school in 1991 with no real qualifications of note (couple of standard grades and two O'grades) and worked in various jobs including: Factory Operative, Kitchen Assistant and Bar-Person. At this time, I was a very keen on sports person, playing football and badminton regularly and running whenever I could. The catalyst to return to education aged 23 came when I picked up a serious ankle injury playing football. With strict instructions from surgeons and doctors not to participate in high impact sports, I lost my only form of escapism which had compensated for the low pay and poor working conditions that I endured in my various jobs. It was at this point that I decided to return to education in the hope that I could obtain qualifications that would allow me to apply for better jobs that would in turn improve my quality of life.
My goal was to get to university and gain an honours degree but before doing that, I had to go to college to complete an Access programme. I chose the SWAP Access to Social Sciences because of the variety and options it offered in terms of the degree courses I could study at university.
The course was great. I struggled a little bit to begin with having been out of education for 7 years and not really being inherently academic. However, the tutors were very helpful and ensured that the course was delivered in a style and at a pace which took into account the varying levels of ability and experience of the students in the class. There was also a healthy level of peer support given that everybody realised that we were all 'in the same boat together'.
I completed my Access course successfully in May 1999 and was both excited and apprehensive about moving on to university.

 After a 'false start' at Napier University studying BA Law, I transferred to BA Sport    Studies at the University of Stirling. I felt that if I was going to succeed at university, I had to study something that was interesting and personal to me and something that I felt passionate about. Sport ticked all of these boxes. It was very awkward and difficult at first. Being a January start did not help and in all truth it took me about a year to settle in fully. Although I was only 25 at the point of entry I felt embarrassed at being the oldest in all of my classes by at least six or seven years.  However, I slowly but surely overcame this and eventually made some friends with other students in my class who provided no end of amusement with their care free attitude to life and study!
I coped reasonably well with the work. I took a real pride in every piece of course work that I tackled and won the respect of the teaching staff as a result. However, exams were a bit of a problem. I absolutely detested them. I couldn't and still don't understand the rationale behind them. Nevertheless, one by one, I worked through them, conquering my nerves and burning the midnight oil in the process.

The upshot was that, after three and a half years, I gained a BA Hons Sports Studies (2:1). The Graduation was brilliant. It was great to share the day with my Mum and Dad who had supported me so much throughout my time in further and higher Education.
After graduating, I worked at Heriot-Watt University for four years in the Recruitment and Admissions Department. I have recently moved from there and started a new job as Events Manager at a charity called Football Aid.
 Without the sound preparation and experience gained on the SWAP course, none of   this would have been possible. I still value and appreciate the importance that SWAP has  played in providing me with the confidence to take advantage of the opportunities that have come my way. I would recommend SWAP to anybody who wants a fresh challenge and a change of direction.
If I can do it.....anybody can!
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