Mature student Keana Grigg tells us about her experience applying for university and studying at Salford

Photo of Keana Grigg
Photo of Keana Grigg

Choosing Salford 

I never truly wanted to leave education. After college, I continued my studies via a different route to university with the same end goal in mind. However, I always wanted to come to university for a more in depth and possibly challenging experience. Mainly I knew there were mounds of support both academically and personally, that university had that I couldn’t get via working straight away.

I got a friend who did their degree at Salford to walk me around the campus and explain all the buildings and what they offered and things. I got a lot of information myself from Salford’s website, their Facebook page and such. I chose Salford as it is close enough to my home to commute. I’m unable to live on campus with having a daughter. Even back when I was in college and still thinking of going straight to university, Salford was one of my main options. This is because of how good it has performed academically as a university compared to others, them having strong departments, their course content and the recommendation of my peers who attended Salford and went on to gain good employment. Personally, I believe they’ve only gotten better and more progressive over the years, and that was really attractive when it came to choosing.

Applying to university as a mature student

I only achieved AS Levels from college as I left during my second year. However, I did have course-specific recognised qualifications, that being AAT. This helped but was still not enough technical qualifications, so I took advantage of the APL (Accreditation of Prior Learning) process at Salford due to having worked in the industry of my course for years before applying.

I applied through UCAS, almost the same as you would straight from college. The first difference though was that I only decided I wanted to apply in May, so had a mad rush to get everything completed before the deadline to do a normal application rather than waiting for clearing.

I provided all my information, got a reference and wrote a personal statement. In the meantime, I contacted staff from a couple of universities to ask some questions about them and see their specific guidance on what qualifications they accept etc. I was eventually contacted by a couple of universities to send them more information on myself. Salford wanted my CV, a further reference than the one provided on my initial UCAS application, and to have contact with me on a personal level. This was really straightforward, and they got back to me very quickly to say they’re happy to say I’m eligible for their APL process. Not long after this I received an unconditional offer and accepted it straight away, rejecting my other offers.

Life as a mature student

I’m not the oldest mature student around, but either way, I think most students on the courses and around campus are all at a point in their life where it doesn’t feel as unusual to be socialising with a range of ages.

With having a family to be with, I’m not as focused on the social aspect either in some ways, but I’ve easily made acquaintances and there is plenty to take part in around campus that is more than accessible and enjoyable for students of any age. Generally getting to know people has, I think, been easier as a mature student. With age, I have lost a lot of my apprehensions I had back as a younger student, that I do see in other younger students too. It’s nice to be able to finally help others come out of their shell, I was never this person when I was younger.

The university provides a good selection of information about mature students and their approach to making the university open to all, so I felt quite at ease with being a mature student at Salford from the start.

I have a 3-year-old daughter and a dog to take care of. I knew this would be a challenge but luckily, I was in a position of being able to take my daughter to a nursery. Having juggled family and work life, it wasn’t too far a stretch. There is less flexibility with having university timetabled, but where I was unable to work around this, the university and their staff provide so much support and are very understanding. Another part of choosing Salford was knowing this through speaking to peers. It certainly helps balance things, there’s always a way to work things out.

In the second year, things have kicked up a gear. In order to provide for my family, I’ve had to take a permanent job alongside university so home and uni life is now being juggled with work life. Then because I don’t do things by half, I’m now pregnant again too and not planning to take any time off university. It can at times seem daunting and impossible but with good organisation and an acceptance that you’re going to be working a bit harder than other students, it is manageable.

I’m lucky I can drive and have a car, and it’s so accessible from many directions by road as its in such a good location. There is a train station situated right in the middle of campus which is just excellent and is connected to many areas. It’s also really close to Manchester’s stations for more long-distance connections and even the airport. There is a large number of frequent bus services that go past the campuses. It’s also close enough to walk to get your shopping or go into town (Manchester).

Support at Salford

The support I’ve received is fantastic. Everyone is treated equally and fairly but when things arose such as needing to be at home when my daughter was unexpectedly sent home from nursery, or during Covid when she would be instructed to isolate, so long as you’re willing to put the work in yourself, the tutors were great at providing further support and providing additional resources to get your study in. When doing online lectures and I was home with my child and she would be making a racket, tutors were always understanding why I wouldn’t be able to use my mic and things like that.

Salford Business School have multiple departments to help students with their employability. I’ve used some of their services offered via the library such as uni skills which is directed around preparing for university but there are a lot of transferable skills within there that are great for work. I plan on doing the Microsoft Office Specialist Qualification which they pay for you to do so it is free to us, and it can go on our CVs to boost us and prove our technical competence, this is especially important for the type of work I want to go into. They have a careers and enterprise department, an employability department, they provide all kinds of support. I’m signed up to their email list where they send us jobs they find each week. They have 1-2-1 drop-in sessions where you can discuss many things, I plan on using this service for their chance to look over your CV and provide constructive feedback on how to improve it.  I attended a career fair last year which was wonderful.. These are all vital in boosting our chances of employability when added to our module content that is created with trying to increase students employability also.

Advice for future mature learners

Try to be open and communicate as much as possible with the staff and students. Engaging in what they have to offer is so important, especially as you may feel things don’t come as easy as they do to non-mature students. Get yourself stuck in but at the same time try to remember university isn’t just about the academics which I know can be a bit of a blind spot when you’re a mature student. Most importantly, enjoy it!

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