Today, after about a month of shear stress and deliberation, I finally bit the bullet, completed the last couple of steps, and sent off my application to UCAS. I have decided to apply for a second degree, because clearly the first 4 years and almost £50k of debt just weren’t enough. The whole decision to go back to university wasn’t made lightly, it’s a lot of money, which right now I’m not too sure exactly how I’m going to find, and it took me several months of consideration before I even got to the point where I was seriously considering it.
It started back in the summer, with big plans to travel the world (which is going to have to be put on hold if I do go back to university, but you win some you lose some I guess). I knew that I wanted to work while I travelled, and I’d already decided that I wanted to do something with animals, preferably a nature reserve, smallholding, or some kind of sustainable agriculture. This idea then expanded into “wouldn’t it be cool to travel and do work about how animals react and adapt to changes in their environment”, sparked mostly by my fascination with Chernobyl, and how the wildlife there has changed in response to the nuclear radiation.
It seemed to me like I had found my passion, something that I could see myself actually doing, looking at how ecosystems are adapting, or in most cases failing to adapt, to the pressures that humans are putting on the environment. I now had a direction, a goal, somewhere that I wanted to get to. I just had to work out how to get there. I knew that I’d probably have to have more of a specific science related background other than just “I’m interested in this stuff and it’s something I’m passionate about.”
So I started looking at jobs in the field that I wanted to go into. One phrase in all the job applications started to stand out “must have a degree in ecology, or other relevant subject.” Now I may have a degree, in fact I even have a masters degree, but it doesn’t really relate to ecology at all, it’s in finance. If I’m being truly honest, the last time I studied any kind of ecology, or related subject, was when I did AS Level biology, and that was a while ago. So it was starting to look like I was going to need another degree, in ecology, or a related subject.
That’s when I hit a few stumbling blocks. Not many universities do ecology, and certainly not within the sort of distance I’d be willing to travel to. Just finding universities offering the course was hard enough, but then I hit upon a second issue. My A Level results. Simply put, for the majority of the universities on my list they just weren’t good enough, my BCC and an AS Level in Biology weren’t enough. Some universities wanted a full A Level in biology, and most wouldn’t even consider my degree results as proof that I could perform at a university level beyond what my A Levels suggested.
One university helped me out, they offered me a potential alternative in environmental science, it was a course with slightly less stringent acceptance policy, and whilst it wasn’t as pure ecology based there is a lot of overlap since most environmental science courses have either core or optional modules in ecology. This meant going back and refiltering the universities, this time looking at environmental science, and eventually I had my five choices.
The only thing that was slightly easier this time around was my personal statement. Having an extra few years experience seems to make all the difference in having things to talk about and 4000 characters just didn’t seem enough, if I’m being honest I could have probably filled a 4000 word research paper on why I want to do this course. However, had I known ecology and environmental science existed when I was 16, or even known what it was, I would still have been able to write a much better personal statement for that than I did for finance.
It truly feels like maybe this time I’ve found my calling in life, the thing that maybe I should have done all along. And honestly? 16 is far too young to choose your entire career and life path, especially when you don’t know half of the things that even exist as options.
Now however, the hard part is done, my applications are off, and I just have to wait.