Recently, the Centre for Lifelong Learning Team caught up with Taiwo Ogunrinde, former student of the Gateway to HE course who then progressed to a degree and is currently studying her second year of the full-time Social Studies Degree. She shares with us her seven tips for mature students and her inspiring journey to education.
Tip One: Don’t doubt your ability to be in the University environment. Doubt means you should try, and you should push yourself beyond the doubt.
Studying on the full-time Social Studies degree, Taiwo shares her lectures with a mixture of students from different paths and backgrounds. Some of these students are young adults who passed their A-levels with 3 A’s.
“You always wonder, how will I fit in with them? How will I be capable of competing with them? But after speaking with Steve, who is also my personal tutor, he helped me deal with my fears. He told me no matter your background, the results speak for themselves from the work you put in.”
Taiwo finished her first year successfully with an upper-class second honour, which included achieving a first in some of her modules, including for one of her creative assignments in which she wrote about her own background and experiences.
“We’ve got the mature student advantage,” she says, “You’ve got life experience. You’ve gained this before starting your degree. I drilled my life experience into my essay and came out with a first.”
Tip two: Do what you have a passion for and let it speak for you.
“As mature student, we have a lot on,” Taiwo advises, “Don’t pick something labouring. If you study something you are passionate about, it won’t feel like studying. Let that be your voice and lead you.”
Now entering her second year, Taiwo has majored in Health and Social Policy and has started to consider her future after finishing her degree.
“When I finished Gateway, I knew I could carry on to do a degree. Now seeing my results from my first year, I am starting to think I could go further.”
“I would probably specialise in the research side of health.”
Tip Three: Give it your all, don’t hold back, there has got be to compromise, leave life behind to concentrate on it.
Starting the Gateway to HE course in 2016, the mum of two joined the free course whilst pregnant with her third child.
“I had my baby 5 weeks after my Gateway exam. But I was determined to get a good result and I achieved a First.”
When her baby was 3 months old, she returned back to the books, starting her undergraduate degree at the University. Juggling the school run, family life and studying, Taiwo sings the praises of her supportive family and husband.
“On the days I didn’t feel like going to University, he was the one who was pushing me out the door – telling me to pick myself up and go. He has been very supportive and helpful with the kids. I am very lucky.”
Taiwo’s eldest who is now 8, is also inspired by his mother’s educational journey and has decided he wants to pursue study at University himself.
“I occasionally take my children to campus with me just to have an experience, so they are familiar with Warwick. My eldest has worked out how many years it will take him to complete a degree, masters and PhD study. He wants to be a professor.”
Tip Four: Believe in yourself, ignore your past exam results. That was then, now is a new chapter.
“Failure does smash your confidence. Seeing your results will help you build your confidence again. Gateway helped. It showed me the results I could achieve.”
The Gateway to HE, which runs twice a year part-time, teaches classes in an informal style, allowing students to settle back into study. Senior Teaching Fellow, Dr Steve Gascoigne, who teaches the Gateway course, himself came to University in later life after working in the automotive industry. His story inspired Taiwo, and this helped her drive to study a degree. He is now also her personal tutor in her Social Studies degree.
“Steve’s story inspired me, he was open and honest about his own background and how he came to Warwick as a mature student. How he worked hard to get here. That inspired me.”
Tip Five: Keep trying, nothing is a waste of time.
Moving to the United Kingdom in 2005, Taiwo originally started studying at the University in 2007 with the Centre for Lifelong Learning, but could not progress to a full-time degree due to the cost of international fees.
Despite this, she remained highly motivated and studied several online courses including a Level 3 Diploma with Oxford College whilst working part-time and managing family life.
“I needed to keep my mind going academically. I was fuelled with a passion to study.”
Keen to return to study at Warwick, Taiwo checked the Warwick University website regularly and found the Gateway to HE course.
“You find a class with people similar to you.” She says. “Parents who have been to school before, people who simply struggled because life got in the way.”
Three weeks into studying the Gateway to HE course, Taiwo found out about one of the University of Warwick Scholarship Award schemes, awarded to a small number of students depending on their background and personal circumstances.
“I was advised it was for A level students originally, but I applied anyway. I then pushed myself in Gateway to achieve the highest grades possible, so I had more chances of getting a scholarship.”
“I didn’t want to believe I had got it, I didn’t get too attached to the application just in case. My husband kept checking my email as he was more excited than I was. I was silent for 5 minutes in shock. I am very thankful.”
Tip Six: All your hard work will pay off eventually
Taiwo’s time at Warwick has been an eventful journey so far. Juggling family life and welcoming a new child into the world is a lot to take on whilst also returning to fulltime study. However, her determination and motivation to study at Warwick and achieve her degree have helped her balance her commitments and push herself further.
“I’m enjoying studying the degree.” She says. “I do everything I can with essays and help my family.”
At home, she balances family life with late night library sessions, putting the kids to bed and then heading out to the library.
“At home, I am a mum; in the library, I am a student. I separate the two.”
Taiwo believes that being a mature student has helped her appreciate how far she has come and how hard she has had to work to achieve what she has. This has impacted her outlook on studying and making the most out of her time at Warwick. She hopes to achieve very good grades in her degree.
“Coming from my background, I am aware of what I’ve achieved, what I have gained, and it pushes me more to not only maintain what I have but also continuously progress further.”
Tip Seven: Don’t be reluctant to ask for help. Everyone is approachable and very helpful including the lecturers.
“In my time at Warwick so far, I’ve had to re-learn about asking for help. I’m used to doing things myself because I left home at a very young age. And this reflected in other areas too.
“I remember during our induction week last year, one thing the CLL team told us repeatedly was to always ask for help whenever we need it, ranging from family to essays. And each time I got stuck, I will drop a quick email to my lecturers, or book an appointment to see someone in the wellbeing team or with my personal tutor, and each of those helped me greatly.”
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