Blog post

Becoming a university student

By Conor Perrott - 27 May 2022

My university journey started from a conversation about my hobbies - now I’m working towards making my hobby a career.

The summer of 2020 brought about many things: the pandemic, an influx of memes, and the anxiousness of waiting for my acceptance letter from the University of Derby. It was a crazy time for sure.

Before applying to university, I attended an English class at my local college to build up my grade for my application. I was worried that they wouldn’t take me because I didn’t have the right grade to be offered a place. I had debated whether to apply for the undergraduate course or to keep working. It was a lengthy battle between my head and heart. My friends and family offered me their advice – weighing up the pros and cons but, typically, pushing me to apply.

I remember one of my friends telling me: "The worst thing that can happen is not getting in, and where would you be then? You’d still be in the same place as you are now. But, if you apply, and get accepted, new opportunities and doors will open for you. Why worry about what is going to go wrong when you can focus on what could go right, and what you could achieve?" Those words finally pushed me to go through with my application.

Was I nervous? Yes. Was I worried? Yes. Was I sure this was an absolute mistake? Absolutely! And yet, I still submitted. I still tried.

Submission - my feelings and thoughts

The day I submitted, I had a sense of relief, a sense of accomplishment. A weight had lifted from me, but it was short lived ... the day after, the dread set in and so did my self-doubt. All I could think about was what would I do if I didn’t get in. It was like this during the months running up to getting a letter from the University. I stuck to my friend’s advice. But it was still hard. I struggled to sleep at times and, on good days, I was hopeful of the future – it was quite conflicting.

Had I known what I know now, I wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself or gone through so much stress. What would happen would happen regardless of how I felt. Eventually, I was offered a conditional place on my course. If I failed to get the higher grade for my English, than I wouldn’t be able to attend university. Or at least that’s what I thought at the time.

The further I read on the more relief I felt. If I didn’t manage to get the grade needed, then I would take a foundation year instead of going straight into my degree. It was an unexpected safety net! When my grade was announced, I was finally free. The crushing weight and dread dissipated. I had got the grade I needed but was glad for the foundation alternative as this had given me the confidence that I could still attend university.

Starting my journey

Summer passed as it always did, in the blink of an eye, and then enrolment was upon me. Unlike before, I wasn’t worried or scared but apprehensive about starting. I was about to embark on a new adventure – begin something entirely new and start building my way to a better future.

It was hectic in the first few days, as I started just after the first lockdown and so most restrictions were still in place. All my learning was predominantly online – except one class. I got to meet my cohort for the first time, and it was so exciting! I was in a room with like-minded people who all shared a similar goal of working in the publishing industry, had a love of books and were all writers of some kind. Our class was loud and very energetic. We bounced off each other and fed off our own energies. I had never experienced anything like it.

My second year came around and everything changed. And, by everything, I mean the style of teaching. We were in person! The energy that ran through our class exploded into so much more: our class finally became a cohort. Thankfully, teaching is all on campus now. I mean, the lectures are recorded if we do happen to miss a class ... not that I would want to.

Comparing my experience of the online learning to my current experience, I have never felt so welcomed in a learning institute before. Guest lecturers come in for talks and workshop with us, we go on group trips out during our personal time to different events for our course, and we get to bond with our tutors on a more personal level. I also now get to socialise with my friends in person and on campus, study in Basecamp (it’s the on-site social café) and get to finally experience the student life.

How I was supported

University was something entirely different. It was not like school, nor college – my lecturers treated me as an equal. The University, the tutors and the staff in general were so helpful in getting me started and supported. Even now, my lecturers’ support is still astonishing. My Personal Academic Tutor (don’t worry, you’ll get one too) helped me apply for a part-time role at an independent publisher. They ran me through some interview skills, looked over my CV and cover letter, and gave me feedback on it all. They even provided me links to free online courses (Microsoft Office and Adobe Illustrator) to give me an advantage over my competitors. Had I not got into the University, I would never have had the resources to help me achieve getting that role.

It was the same when I went for a diagnosis for dyslexia. I didn’t really understand what I needed to do. I was lost in navigating the system. I didn’t really know where to start or who to contact, and yet, my tutor came to my rescue! She went over the application with me and got in touch with the relevant personnel for me to begin the process. After a month or so, I had been tested, diagnosed, and provided the relevant support needed for my learning.

Now, in my second year, that support continues. Thanks to the professors and the support from the University, I have gained so much experience and knowledge for the industry that I am hoping to go into. Since starting university, I have undertaken two roles working in publishing which I would have never achieved on my own. I got to meet industry professionals and network with them. I didn’t think university was for me but, now, after everything, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

About the author

Creative Writing and Publishing student - Conor Perrott.

Conor Perrott

My name is Conor, I am a Marketing Rep here at the University of Derby. As a part of my role, I get a lot of opportunities to work with, and for, the marketing department in creating content. I am a Creative Writing and Publishing student who is an aspiring content writer and lover of all things fantasy, horror and sci-fi... especially when it comes to books and video games.