Do you want the honest truth? I’m not someone who can say that I always wanted to go to university. It was something I had always been aware of, but I wasn’t sure it was for me. I’ve never known what I wanted to do in life either. I knew I liked sports, especially football, and that academic achievements were never a priority in my life.

A bit of background information for you: I peaked academically at 11 years old, passed a test and went to a grammar school in Halifax then stayed on at their Sixth Form. I started doing four A-Levels: Maths, Psychology, PE and English Language, but I quickly dropped to three when I realised quite how many essays they expected me to write in English Language. I had to travel to a different school for my PE lessons as it was not on the curriculum at my sixth form and on top of that, in my final year, I decided to start traveling the 200-mile round trip from Halifax to Middlesbrough three times a week so that I could play football at a higher standard. This often meant doing my homework on the midnight train home, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

The only Higher Education option encouraged by my sixth form was university. I personally didn’t think it was for me but the options in front of me were university or going straight into a job and seeing as I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I started looking into university.

It didn’t take me long to find Sport and Exercise Psychology. I had a keen interest in mental health and especially the effects it had on athletes and their performances. At the time, it was only offered at a handful of universities and, after looking through modules online, I realised even less were accredited courses. When it came to university open days, I went with an open mind for sports courses in general but really, I wanted to focus on psychology.

Finding a university seemed to be an impossible task. Every open day I went to, there was something wrong, even things unrelated to the universities: I got lost, it rained, the talk about the course didn’t talk about the course, their main sport was lacrosse, I felt like I was being talked down to, everything was too far apart. It felt like it just wasn’t for me.

The last university I visited was Loughborough University. We parked up in amongst seven football pitches, next to a football stadium. It was a campus university, so nothing was too far apart. It didn’t rain. I didn’t get lost. In the talk about Sport and Exercise Psychology, the lecturer didn’t talk like he was better than anyone and, when he talked about the questions they aimed to answer in the course, I hung off every word he said. When it came to results day, I walked in knowing if I didn’t get into Loughborough University, I would rather enter the world of work without any clue of what to do than go to my second choice.

When I had applied for the course, I had a very quick response from the university asking me to write another statement purely about my interest in sport psychology. I had talked about it in my personal statement, but this one didn’t need to have anything I had done in it but rather everything I wanted to find out about. Once I sent this back to them, I had an offer within 24 hours. I mention this because I didn’t get the grades I needed for Loughborough. They had offered AAB and I got BBB. When I opened my results and read this, I was devastated but also a little embarrassed and frustrated that I hadn’t tried a little bit harder. On the way out of the results centre, back to the car, I opened UCAS to reject my second choice only to see the words “Congratulations you have been accepted into Loughborough University”. Academically, I may not have been the level they had wanted but they still wanted me. I hadn’t thrown it away because it wasn’t my priority, in fact prioritising the things I enjoyed and having a real interest in my course had been the things that got me into university rather than the grades.

Being at Loughborough University was everything I hoped it would be. Across my time there, I played football for the BUCS teams and the Sunday Team. This included an opportunity to lead the team out in a League Two stadium in front of 800 home fans. Away from the football, I found my course incredibly interesting and my placement year offered me fantastic opportunities. I spent the year as Academy Performance Analyst at Exeter City Football Club. Previously, I had not realised that watching football and picking it apart was a job. I had no experience in it, but I hit the ground running and gave it my everything. Even though the running of the academy was altered by COVID, my work with the U18s team remained fairly constant as they were considered to be a high enough level to continue with their season throughout.

I finished my undergraduate degree two years ago and spent a year travelling as much as possible, working every minute that I was not away. Whilst I now have an idea of what I want to do with my life, I am still considering my options and figuring out how I am going to get there. The difference is that now the idea of not knowing isn’t a scary thought, it’s simply an opportunity to take a break and see what’s out there with the knowledge that I can go back into higher education at any point if I need to.