Changing direction with a Foundation Year — the supportive route towards studying a degree

Considering university but concerned about the admissions criteria? A Foundation Year can prepare you for a range of life-changing degrees, as one of our students reveals.

Three students sat near the large pond next to the Roger Stevens building on the University of Leeds campus.
Roger Stevens Building Cooling Pond, University of Leeds campus.

“In our lives, we have to make many difficult decisions,” says Dayan, a first year student at the University of Leeds.

“For me, a decision with major consequences was whether or not to stay in education…”

Here, Dayan reveals how his Foundation Year with the Lifelong Learning Centre helped him take the next step in his education, and progress towards studying an undergraduate degree at Leeds.

Making an important decision

After completing high school, many of my peers decided to leave education and pursue a job. I wanted to continue my studies — but I didn’t want to continue them alone.

Gaining an education is challenging, all the more so when you feel as if you don’t have any support. I had the grades to go on to do A-levels, but I chose to do BTECs instead — at least to begin with. I knew that by doing BTECs I’d be surrounded by familiar faces, but by the end of the first year I felt it wasn’t quite the right choice for me.

Studying the A-levels I wanted meant doing so alone — or so I thought — but I also knew that leaving behind what was familiar, and taking a step into the unknown, was the right thing to do…

Time for a change of direction

As somebody from West Yorkshire, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities given to me by the local community. The University of Leeds offered me such an opportunity.

I had studied Science and Humanities subjects at A-level, so the Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Thought BA, which the Foundation Year allowed me to progress onto, seemed to offer the best of both worlds.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life — the Foundation Year was the first step I took towards figuring that out.”

I attended an Information Session where I was able to ask questions I had about the Foundation Year. I was introduced to Madeleine Newman, Programme Manager for Arts and Humanities at the Lifelong Learning Centre, and found her to be very helpful in explaining how the Foundation Year works and what to expect.

Attending the Information Session and experiencing all that university had to offer was a major factor that led to me applying. I’d definitely encourage anybody who’s considering a Foundation Year to attend these events so you can make an informed decision.

Three students exploring the University of Leeds campus on a sunny day — the view shows lines of trees thick with green leaves.
Information Sessions are a great opportunity to meet other students and find out what university life has to offer.

I knew that the Foundation Year would not only allow me to get where I wanted to go, but it would also prepare me for my destination. As the first in my family to attend a research-intensive Russell Group university, my experience of studying the Foundation Year put to rest any doubts I had that university might not be for me. At the time I was deciding whether to apply, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life — the Foundation Year was the first step I took towards figuring that out.

Joining a supportive community

Due to the pandemic, the first year of my university studies was taught online. The pandemic stirred up a lot of emotions for everyone, including myself. I felt more uncertain about what to do next, but was reassured knowing that there was support available from my tutors whenever I needed it.

“I discovered a passion for the subjects I was studying — something that might not have happened if I hadn’t taken the Foundation Year.”

At the start of the second semester I had to travel to my motherland due to a family emergency and, as a result, I spent the remainder of the academic year in Kashmir. When it comes to academia, you soon realise that your studies don’t take place in isolation — they interact and often overlap with your personal life. I was at the beginning of my university studies and it seemed that I was struggling to balance my learning with responsibilities elsewhere…

Thankfully, when I discussed my situation with my tutors I was given all the support I needed. Throughout both semesters I was at no point made to feel there were any limitations to the help that was on offer: I had regular check-ins to assess my development and I was encouraged to seek help whenever I needed it.

Three students in discussion around a table. There are textbooks behind them and laptops on the table.
A foundation year offers a supportive learning environment, preparing you for study at undergraduate level.

My experience in Kashmir also helped convince me of the value of continuing my education — and the fact that I persevered and overcame many challenges made me realise how much I wanted to do so.

The way forward

The road of academia is not always a straightforward one. Like many challenging routes, there will be bumps, cracks and diversions. I struggled at points as many do, leading to self doubt about whether university was the right choice for me.

“It made it possible for me to imagine a different future for myself, and to create that future at the same time.”

My doubts were soon resolved by the simple realisation that I enjoyed what I was learning: I enjoyed discussing what I had learnt with my peers and hearing their perspectives. I appreciated knowing that my learning didn’t have to be limited by the circumstances I found myself in. I had the support I needed to continue, and I discovered a passion for the subjects I was studying — something that might not have happened if I hadn’t taken the Foundation Year.

The course benefitted me in other ways as well, which only became clear when I moved on to the first year of my degree. I’ve developed my academic skills by writing essays, doing group work, learning to reference and more — meeting all of the expectations university has of its first year students. I’ve had a real advantage.

Studying a Foundation Year allowed me to develop in ways I hadn’t considered before. It made it possible for me to imagine a different future for myself, and to create that future at the same time.

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