Cheryl-Lee McPhillie
Access to Humanities at West College Scotland 2017-18
University of Glasgow, Economic & Social History/History (2018-19 to present)
Introduce yourself:
My name is Cheryl-Lee, I'm 34 years old and currently living in Drumchapel, Glasgow - although I am originally from Clydebank. My mum was a single parent for many years and she worked three different jobs, so I had to live with my grandparents, who also worked. I have a younger sister and she recently graduated from UWS in Adult Nursing – in fact, she has two degrees, and I had none!      

What was school like for you?
My mum wanted me to do well at school so I could get into university -- and I really loved school!  When I was 17, I applied for university, as my heart was set on becoming a teacher as quickly as possible.  However, I was unfortunately bullied through S6 and this had a detrimental effect on my education. I ended up failing my Prelims, which in turn led me to leave school, thus costing me my conditional offers at those universities that I had applied to. When I left, I had obtained 7 Standard Grades and only 2 Highers. I was lured by the prospect of full-time employment and decided to pursue that instead.    

What did you do after school?
After leaving school, the part-time job that I had then became full-time for me. Five years after leaving school, I gave birth to my daughter. I also was living with my then-boyfriend and considered applying to college, but soon that was considered out of the question. My other daughter was born shortly after our relationship broke down and I became a single parent myself.  

My full-time job then returned to part-time but, as the girls were growing up, I started to become disillusioned with my job. I met my husband in 2012 and we got married in 2015. Shortly after getting married, my husband asked was I ever going to consider returning to education so that I could become a teacher. The spark was born.  

In 2016, I decided to apply for Access to Humanities at West College Scotland and instantly felt both terrified and buzzing at the same time. My interview was nerve wracking but, when the interviewer said I had been awarded an unconditional offer, I was ecstatic and couldn't wait to start.    

What led you to return to education when you did?
My husband was so encouraging in my path to returning to education. If it were not for him, I do not think that I would've considered it again after being told by my then ex-boyfriend that I would never make it as a teacher or even a student.  

The support from my husband, my children and my family was a massive boost and I started to feel confident in myself again.  

What was your SWAP programme like?
Where do I start? I loved every moment of my SWAP programme. No day was the same and the staff that I had were fantastic! They were very supportive and approachable. The course itself was wonderful, and I loved the different array of subjects that were on offer.  

This course helped me gain self-confidence and developed key skills that I would take onto university. When it came time to apply for university via UCAS, I was a little afraid and got worried that I wouldn't receive any offers. To my surprise, I received 5 out of 5 Conditional Offers and I made it my mission to achieve the conditions of entry for my chosen university: the University of Glasgow.  

One massive challenge came for me when I failed the Maths Prelim. I became distraught but, with the support of college staff and my classmates, I decided to persevere. In the end, I passed the final Maths exam with flying colours and I still cannot believe it to this day!  

July 2018 marked the month that my Conditional changed to Unconditional after leaving my SWAP programme with AAA on my final student profile. I cried and couldn't believe that I was finally -- after 15 years -- going to university!  

I made some really good friends at college and we still keep in touch, as we all are at different universities. We generally worked very well as a class, it was teamwork most of the time and the staff were fantastic with us!    

At the end of your SWAP programme, how did you feel and how had you changed as a person?
Although I felt a little sad about leaving college, I couldn't wait to start life as an undergraduate student at the University of Glasgow.   The first month of college had left me with mixed emotions as I had little belief in myself that I could do it.  However, my last month of college marked a massive shift in the perception of myself. I felt much more self-confident and full of determination to succeed.  

The SWAP programme was so helpful in preparing me for the next step - university.    

So how has the transition from SWAP been and how are you doing?
The transition was a little daunting at first - moreso due to the fact that I felt at least 15 years older than the other undergraduates. However, I now no longer have that worry and it is not an issue - even if I've been mistaken for a tutor a few times!   The SWAP programme really helped me to be prepared for academic work as workload at university is very much independently based. Some of the current undergraduates have asked for study tips and I have more than happy to share my revision tips with them.  

Yes, the workload is a lot, but with hard work and determination you can definitely do this! Time management is key to success, so make sure time is well utilised.        

What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future?           
I'm about to start second year and looking forward to progressing to Honours also. I love my degree and my university; the degree programme is fantastic and the staff are brilliant. The level of support that the university offers is superb! There is help and support available when you need it, so do not ever feel like you're alone, because you're not.  

After university, I plan to apply for my PGDE in Secondary Education and finally fulfil my lifelong dream of becoming a teacher.  

Any other comments?          
All I can say is hard work pays off! Work hard, manage your time wisely and you will see the results. If you ever think that you're not good enough for both college and university, think again because if I can do it then so can you! You've got this!
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