Case study

How mature student Chloe took control of her life

The idea of going to university at the age of 25 seemed daunting for Chloe Cook. But she wanted to take control of her life. Now she’s in love with academia after starting a Psychology degree at Derby.

An alternative route

For Chloe, coming to university was a huge step. Not least because she had to overcome her own anxiety and mental health issues. She explains: “I’d been working full time since I left college and had been struggling with myself and who I wanted to be when I decided at age 25 to finally go to university. 

“I had been interested in psychology since I was really young, mainly because of my own experiences with poor mental health. And I wanted to take control of my life and pour myself into something where I could see actual results of my hard work, which I’ve definitely been able to see!”

Having been out of education for a while, Chloe started her Psychology BSc (Hons) with a foundation year. She believes it prepared her well for her degree.

“Undertaking a foundation year was the best decision, hands down,” she says. “I had been out of education for seven years, and my A-level grades weren’t the best. Studying the foundation year was the perfect way to get me back into education. It reignited my love for studying, because I’d forgotten how rewarding it can be to work hard on a project and then get a good grade and good feedback.”

New opportunities

Chloe has pushed herself to take the opportunities available to her at Derby. She explains: “I became a student representative for my course and, through that, I managed to meet and get to know the teaching staff really well, which absolutely helped my pretty severe anxiety.

“I decided to run the Psychology Society, which gave me new skills, such as event planning and running social media, which allowed me to meet so many wonderful students who like me had a passion for psychology outside of just what we’re taught in our lectures.

“Building from those two experiences, this year I decided to re-run to become a student representative again, which is where I felt I could make a difference and help improve the course.” 

Becoming a student representative gave Chloe the opportunity to influence high-level decision-making about her course and to ensure the student voice was heard.  “A lot of students felt we wait too far into the semester to start our assessment preparation, and my fellow rep and I brought this up at one of our meetings and then this semester, almost every class has made it so we’re starting discussions about assessments much earlier, which allows people to feel a bit more relaxed and able to plan their semester out more effectively.”

Building experience

Chloe has undertaken some work experience projects which have firmed up her future career plans. She says, “I’ve also been insanely lucky to be able to work with a lecturer for my work experience, where I’ve been helping them with their own research in a research assistant role.

“As a research assistant, I have been helping by studying various topics relating to parapsychology. Primarily my role has been to search through various past literature on this topic, which is a key skill that every Psychology student needs as part of their degree, especially if you want to get into Academia and research post University.

“It’s been so fun and engaging being able to meet up with a member of staff and be a part of the process of setting up a study and this has already proven to be a rewarding skill in my own coursework. Once I have finished with my undergraduate course I’m hoping to continue studying. I have found a deep love for cyberpsychology, academia and research so I hope to continue my studies to eventually become a cyberpsychologist who works in research. I dream of being able to publish my own studies. Also, I think Dr Chloe Cook has a nice ring to it.

“I was also approached by another lecturer to help them design some staff training on how to help autistic/neurodivergent students and make their lectures more accessible, which is something I was so happy to be a part of because I too am autistic. And it was definitely something I felt could be improved upon. I think that was probably one of the most rewarding things to be asked to take part in, as it is something that is very near to my heart.”

Supported every step of the way

Chloe has accessed the Student Support Services and says their services have been invaluable to her. “As someone who has struggled with mental health problems, including severe anxiety, the student wellbeing service has been a godsend, honestly,” she says.

“It helped knowing that I had access to someone to talk to about my worries and anxieties – both personal and academic. They were able to help put things into perspective for me when I couldn’t do it myself and gave me the motivation to keep going when I felt like I was in over my head.

Stress and anxiety are both normal to experience and a part of life, but that doesn’t mean you should let it hold you back, especially at University, which I definitely learned by speaking to my support worker.

“There is so much help and support if you only ask for it, and while it can be scary to put yourself out there the benefits outweigh the cost. I never thought I could do any of the things I have been doing since coming here, but I kept pushing myself to leave my comfort zone and it’s been so rewarding.”

Chloe Cook

Derby has always had a good reputation and, when I came to the Open Day and got to speak to the staff, I instantly knew it was where I wanted to be. I was so terrified, but meeting the staff helped reassure me that I was making the right decision.

Chloe Cook
BSc (Hons) Psychology