My name is Stacey, and I grew up in Barnsley. Now unless you are also from South Yorkshire you have probably never heard of it.
Unfortunately, Barnsley has some of the lowest participation rates in higher education (the number of young people who go onto study higher education). Because of this, I feel lucky to be here studying and to have had the influences and information that made me want to and able to aim high.
Coming from my area with a single parent upbringing, being one of 5 siblings, the odds were stacked against me. I took part in many widening participation and outreach programmes. This helped me become more confident and meet people from similar backgrounds as me. I knew I wanted to do psychology but was still unsure where.
Getting the Contextual Offer
A poster caught my eye on the wall in sixth form: ‘Pathways to STEM’. From completing it you would get a contextual offer and go on a residential. The university talks I had been to explained ‘contextual offers,’ so I quickly applied and started my journey to university. I chose the University of York as it was one of the closer universities, however I was still a far bit away from home. On the programme, I went to every event and this was made possible by the university sending me the train tickets. The friendly student ambassadors made me feel at ease as they were always waiting at the train station for me.
I fondly remember the final event, the residential. For the residential we stayed in Alcuin College, the college I went on to stay in for first year. We did many fun activities including starting my academic assignment which would give me my contextual offer and got my hoodie which I still wear now (and who doesn’t like a free hoodie).
I was always unsure of my academic ability and this acted like an extra support for me. It allowed me to get onto the Psychology BSc course with a contextual offer of AAB instead of AAA. During the summer, I attended York Experience Summer School (YESS) and gained more information about student life at York. During my time on Pathways to STEM I realised, even after visit days at other universities, that I loved York.
I was nervous and my heart was racing. I only had York down as my firm, no insurance choice so it was this or nothing. Before I got my results, I knew if I had got in from the UCAS website, and I did. York accepted me!
I was excited and ready to pick my accommodation, pack and have my independence (and my own bedroom).
Family members joke and call me posh, but I’m still the same kid who grew up in Barnsley with ‘jacket tateys,’ ’sarnies,’ ’going t’ tarn,’ ‘cuppas’ and everything else synonymous with Barnsley. I am worried about the low participation rate in my area, so I became a Student Ambassador as this allowed me to help inspire students from similar backgrounds. This also allowed me to make them aware of the outreach programmes that they are eligible for. Working as a student ambassador during your studies is great because it’s really flexible.
The contextual offer from the widening participation programmes meant I could grow and develop into a confident person with a wide range of interests. Through this I met so many amazing people and experienced so many things that I would not have been able to do if I did not get into York. The work experience I gained at York has given me confidence to apply for a placement year and will go on being invaluable during my future career. I always felt at home at York due to the huge diversity of people. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll find like-minded people, or people from a similar background.
I found great people in my societies and play online board games with them regularly. York has also ignited my passion for growing plants and baking. I have learnt so many skills from my 2 years of being here so far and can’t wait for more experiences.