Harriet’s story

24 years old, Keswick

Where did you grow up?


What did you study in higher education?

English at the University of Liverpool.

What did you study at sixth form / college?

I studied Philosophy and Ethics, English Language and Biology. I’ve never had a clear idea of what job I want to do (to be honest – I still don’t) so I decided to keep my subject choices quite broad in the hope that one day the perfect career would come to me.

How did you decide what to do after sixth form / college?

For me, going to university was never a simple choice. I was indecisive right up until the last possible moment. I went to Keswick School, and the promotion of university as the next natural step after sixth form was extremely typical there. As well as this, my parents encouraged both me and my brother to go to university. Neither of my parents had gone, but my oldest brother had been the first in our family to go, so they had come to realise that university was achievable for us.  However, at 16, I decided that university wasn’t for me. The pressures and stresses of sixth form began to weigh on me and I felt that there was nothing I was good enough to study. As well as this, I much preferred the idea of leaving sixth form and earning money rather than spending it! I still had no clue what I wanted to do as a job so to me university seemed pointless.

The thing that changed my mind was attending my oldest brother’s graduation at Newcastle – the pride we all felt watching him graduate was indescribable. Nobody in our family had done anything like that before, and I suddenly realised how much I wanted to experience it too! The graduation exposed me to the sheer variety of degrees that are available to study, as I saw students graduating in subjects I’d never even heard of. At this point I knew I wanted to go but felt time was running out and decisions needed to be made, so eventually I applied to do Social Anthropology at Manchester and received a conditional offer.

Has your career / education taken any unexpected turns?

About half way through sixth form, I once again changed my mind and decided I didn’t want to do Social Anthropology. I felt I’d rushed my decision and gone with something I knew I could get the grades for, rather than something I really wanted to do. I think my offer from Manchester gave me the confidence to realise that I was capable, so I should be doing something I enjoy. I’d always loved English and I had (finally) realised my passion. So, instead of going straight into university, I took a year out to reapply. By this time I was certain of where and what I wanted to study; I applied to the University of Liverpool to do English and got an unconditional offer.

Ultimately, I’m glad things happened the way they did. Having a year out gave me time to address some of the concerns that had originally deterred me from university. In particular, the financial strains and the anxiety about moving away from home became much less daunting to me as I explored the options for help available to students. Studying at Liverpool gave me so much more than just my degree – I had unforgettable experiences in a new and exciting city and made friends for life. I even got the opportunity to study abroad for a year in China! All of which I would never had experienced otherwise. Obviously it was certainly difficult at times, but without a doubt it was worth it.