The following blog is from Let us Learn founder Chrisann Jarrett, who was unable to take up her place at university – as she was ineligible for student finance – until she won a scholarship to study Law at London School of Economics (LSE). Here, Chrisann reflects upon her first year in higher education.
This time a year ago, I was ecstatic about starting university after securing a scholarship to study at LSE. I remember how pumped I was when I waltzed into WH Smith and bought my essentials and when, on the first week of term, I was given my reading list. I was making plans about study time and ensuring I had all my books, pens, pencils, highlighters and post-it notes. Thankfully, I have survived my first year as a Law student and, having completed my exams, I have had a lot of time to reflect on the academic year that has passed.
I’ve had many laughs; made great friends from different paths of life; escaped into the depths of the library; gotten lost in my Public Law textbooks and devoured case after case after case. For the most part, it was great. The geek in me loved it. Throughout the year, I also attended various events because the media attention around the Let Us Learn campaign was at its height. LSE loved this type of activism and so they aided me in publicising the campaign. I went to formal dinners, networks and interviews, as well as writing many essays and doing all the things that a student needs to do.
But one thing I wish I had done more of is to simply have FUN!!
I found it difficult to relax and to enjoy myself, like I could see many of my peers doing. Exam period is a difficult time for everyone, but for me it was especially challenging. It wasn’t the content of what I had been taught or the breadth of knowledge that I had to retain. What was most difficult was how WELL I wanted to do and how WELL I believed I NEEDED to do to prove my worth and to show that I deserved my place – and my scholarship – at LSE.
This had nothing to do with how I was received at university. I settled in well, met loads of amazing people and enjoyed the process of learning. The problem was that I constantly felt that I was lucky. I felt that I was lucky to have been granted a scholarship and this made me feel differently about my capabilities and what I truly could achieve. It seems an oddity since I was granted the scholarship based upon circumstances and merit. But I imposed expectations on myself, to prove myself to be worthy to study.
I realise now that I wasted a lot of time worrying, and next year I will do things differently. Having cleared this first hurdle, my approach will now change. I believe now that I am not lucky to have started my higher education. I have simply taken up a place which was rightfully mine. I deserve it, I worked hard for it. So do and so have the many other young people who are still unable to take up their places due to the student finance regulations.
I think my advice for my fellow Let us Learners is that, when you do start university – I firmly believe you all will – you should ensure that you truly recognise your value. Do not think of yourself as being merely ‘lucky’. Instead, see your status as a university student as your rightful position, one for which you have worked especially hard.
At Let us Learn campaign meetings we discuss barriers to university and what steps we can take to overcome these barriers. In some ways this focus distracts us from the fact that we have earned our positions at university by going through the same examination processes as everyone else.
By Chrisann Jarrett