Getting the self-belief to achieve anything. Access at the University of St Andrews

Lizzy Jenkins is a fourth-year student at the University of St Andrews. She’s from Kirkcaldy, Fife, and is studying Psychology. She went to St Andrews after taking part in various access programmes and is now a student ambassador for other prospective students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Lizzy says:

“I want to start of by saying a massive thank you to everyone who is in some way involved in widening access for disadvantaged young people.  Whether you are a teacher, a parent, part of a college or university, part of an organisation that helps to fund the efforts of widening participation, part of your regional council, or are involved in any other capacity, thank you so much for being part of this amazing endeavour.

“I grew up in a financially deprived area of Fife. Going to places like university wasn’t heard of unless you were exceptionally gifted. Like any young child, I grew up wanting to be everything, from a doctor, lawyer through to a fashion designer and hairdresser and Olympic sprinter.  But I had no idea what it actually took to get there, and most people that I told about my aspirations instantly shot me down. The problem is, people in areas like where I’m from don’t think that people like us do great things.

“I had always tried my hardest at everything in school in the hope of impressing my family anyway, but my life really turned around when I went into my third year at high school. I was one of ten people in my year group who were given the chance to take part in the First Chances project run by St Andrews University.  It has always stuck with me that when I was first invited to visit the University that summer, the staff running the project said something to the effect of “you lot have been chosen by your schools and by the university to take part in this project because you are some of the smartest people in your year, and if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything you want in life”. The following year or two were a lot of hard work, from doing independent research to getting over my fear of public speaking, to your average stresses of getting through Standard Grades and Highers.  But the encouragement that I got from St Andrews got me through it. And sure enough, all my hard work paid off when I got an offer to study at Scotland’s top university when I was 16 years old.

“Over my four years at St Andrews, I’ve put everything I have into helping to run these projects and mentoring the kids in the place I was in not too long ago.  Not only because I owe St Andrews massively for everything they’ve done for me, but also because I want to give as many of these kids as possible the chances that I was given, to be everything that they want to be.  This and other widening access projects have grown massively since I was in school, thanks to all of the people involved in widening access.  I am incredibly lucky to be able to work with the staff who got me to where I am every day and I will always be infinitely thankful for what they did and are continuing to do more and more as the years go on.

“I am now hoping to go into primary teaching, so that I can help the next generations of young people to develop the skills that they need for life and aspire to be all that they want to be, regardless of their background.  It is so important for young people who experience barriers to learning and achievement that they have our support.”