My experience with Supported Progression

Hollie Bullen

After a long post-GCSEs summer, university wasn’t the first thing on my mind. However, I was fortunate enough that my sixth form was proactive in getting us to think about life after sixth form. At the start of y12, one of the teachers in my school let me know I was eligible for the Supported Progression (SP) scheme at Durham University. This was because I am a first-generation student from a low participation area. Simply put, my parents didn’t go to university and not many people from my post code advance into higher education. I applied as I had no reason not to, I didn’t have any summer plans, and whilst I had not previously considered Durham, it was an opportunity to learn about student life. I am so glad I applied.

Going to Durham on residential

I had such a fun time on my residential. Despite the fact I found the academic side of things enthralling, the social events were my favourite part. We got to participate in sports, societies, quizzes, and formals. I learnt that maybe BUCS league level netball was not a good idea for me and my lack of hand-eye coordination, but I could still participate at a college level. I learnt that I shouldn’t attempt university challenge, but I am quite good at pub quizzes. There are over 200+ societies at Durham, there would be at least one I’m interested in. I also learnt a very vital tip, when at a formal don’t wear heels as it interferes with silent disco dancing. Getting to experience a formal was a surreal experience I treasure because it was unlike anything I had ever been to and opened my eyes to just what was available at university.

Building confidence

The academic sessions were really interesting as despite knowing I had wanted to study psychology, I was unaware of how many different things I would get the opportunity to learn, and what potential lab equipment I could use. As part of our academic sessions, we had to produce a piece of university level work. Knowing I could do that filled me with so much confidence going into the rest of my A-Levels and really reduced my stress and anxiety about whether I “belong” at such a highly regarded University.

Meeting amazing people

By far the best part of my SP experience was the people I met. All the mentors looked like they were having so much fun, and they were all really friendly and answered all our questions. In a full circle way, I am now a mentor and have just worked my first summer school and I was right- they are so much fun to work! But it was the lasting friendships that formed on that residential that mean the most to me. I met some really great friends. Some were on different courses, and some were on the same. It meant that I already had some friendly faces on campus when I arrived. In this blog is a picture of me and my best friend on the SP formal, and another picture of us 3 years later, with our friendship surviving a pandemic and living in different parts of the country- all thanks to SP.

Gracie and I in 2022

Finding the right place for you

Deciding on Durham for me was easy. My big university tip is to visit the campus. Whilst yes, the course needs to suit your demands, and maybe you want to look at accommodation in first year, for me, the biggest thing was liking where I was going to have to live the next three to four years of my life. On SP we were given the opportunity to see the city. Being from the Northeast, I had been to Durham before, but it was as if I was seeing it with fresh eyes. You don’t need me to tell you Durham is a beautiful city, with its gorgeous old architecture and vibrant green scenery, with the river running through it. I am a big believer in “vibes”, which everyone always thinks is odd when I give this advice. But I felt the “vibes” with Durham that I didn’t necessarily have at other universities. The combination of the city being the size it is, with the look of Durham, with the course, with the colleges: It all felt right for me. Obviously, Durham isn’t for everyone, and that is completely valid. Some of the friends I made on SP didn’t end up at Durham. The point of access courses like SP is to show that universities – especially Russell Group Universities – are for people who traditionally may not have attended university. The biggest thing I learnt at SP was that Durham was for me.

Hear more about my Supported Progression journey

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Hollie Bullen

Hello! My name is Hollie. I’m a first-year psychology student. I am from the North East and I am currently at Josephine Butler College.

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