Quercus Scholarship Winners 2014

The following Mature Students won Quercus Scholarships in 2014 for academic ability in their respective colleges.

Brian O'Keeffe

Course:    Commerce

Year of Study: Going into 3rd year

Age when you entered UCC:   31

What was your highest qualification prior to applying to UCC: 

FAS apprenticeship in Brick/ Stone-laying.

What is the best thing about being a mature student in UCC?

 Getting the opportunity to pursue a third level education and the career opportunities a degree will afford me in the future. I have also met some great people who will be friends long after I leave UCC.

 

What do you plan to do after you complete your degree?

Once I complete my degree, I hope to train as a chartered accountant.

What, if any, were the challenges of being a Mature Student in UCC?

When I first returned to college, it was a little overwhelming. You question whether you have what it takes to succeed at third level. I have come to realise that this is natural and in my experience the UCC  do everything they possibly can to make your integration back into education as seamless as possible. Over time you become more confident in your ability and once that happens you realise you can achieve anything you set your mind to!

 

What tips/ tricks/ advice would you give Mature Students who are entering UCC?

If in the beginning you are feeling over whelmed, ask for help. Whether it is the MSO or other mature students, you will always find someone willing to offer assistance. Also, start working from the beginning of the semester as the time flies and exams come quick! I also think it’s really important to find a balance between study and a social life. College should be fun, not a chore! Work hard but make sure you make time to enjoy other activities away from the books.

Are you, or have you, joined any clubs/ societies while in UCC?

No.

Have you used any of the services in UCC that has helped you throughout your degree so far?

The MSO team have been a consistent source of help over the past two years. From the first time I met the team at orientation, I have found them to be incredibly professional and accessible.

David Bergin

Course: BSocSc (Hons) Youth and Community Work

Year of Study: Going into my 3rd and final year

Age when you entered UCC: 32

What was your highest qualification prior to applying to UCC (please name the course, and where you completed it, if applicable)?

Higher Certificate (FETAC Level 6) in Business (Hotel and Catering Management) from Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway - Oct 2001-Oct 2004

What is the best thing about being a Mature Student in UCC?

The best thing about being a mature student at UCC is the support. Since starting I have had lots of support from UCC. This support has included my lecturers, supervisors, personal tutors and peer support.

What do you plan to do after you complete your degree?

At the moment I am considering doing a masters degree with UCC.

What, if any, were the challenges of being a Mature Student in UCC?

I work full time so it has been difficult to manage my studies as well as work and home life. As mentioned above, however, I have gotten lots of support around this.

What tips/tricks/advice would you give Mature Students who are entering UCC?

Ensure you know the course you are taking will suit the commitments you have outside of your studies.

Do assignments as they come up and do not let things build up.

Go to your classes, this is where you can gain a better understanding of the subject you are studying from your lecturers.

Are you, or have you, joined any clubs/societies while in UCC?

I joined UCC Squash club. I also regularly use the Maradyke Arena.

Have you used any of the services in UCC (including the Mature Student Office) that has helped you throughout your degree so far?

I have utilized the supports provided by my course, such as supervision and personal tutor. I have not used the Mature Student Office, however I feel I could if I felt I needed.

Gillian Maher

Course: Public Health and Health Promotion

Year of study: 4th Year (just completed)

Age when you entered UCC: 24 years

What was your highest qualification prior to applying to UCC: I completed a two year IT course in 2007 in Mallow College of Further Education.

What is the best thing about being a Mature Student in UCC?: Mature Students are really valued in UCC and it is understood that their needs may differ significantly from the majority of students. Supports are in place in UCC to help mature students with their transition to university and to aid students with any difficulties they may be face.

What do you plan to do after you complete your degree?: I have applied for a Masters in Public Health in UCC, after which, I hope to pursue a career in population health research.

What were the challenges of being a Mature Student in UCC?: After being out of the academic setting for a number of years, it was difficult to return to the classroom, while it was also difficult to leave the security of a full-time job and wage. However, after a number of weeks I realised that I had made the right decision and have never regretted it since.

What tips/tricks/advice would you give Mature Students who are entering UCC?: It is understandable that Mature Students may find it difficult to balance study time with other commitments. Therefore, I would strongly advise that they make an effort to attend all lectures and tutorials as this will benefit them greatly when it comes to studying for exams.

Are you, or have you joined any clubs/societies while in UCC?: As I commuted to UCC on a daily basis, I found it difficult to commit to any clubs/societies. However, if other Mature Students are in a position to join a club/society it would be a great way of meeting new people.

Have you used any of the services in UCC that have helped you throughout your degree?: There are many services in place that attempt to aid students throughout their time in UCC. During my four years I often made use of various services, for example, library services for borrowing books, printing and accessing academic journals for assignments and exams. (Students are shown how to use these services, therefore it is not necessary to worry if you are unfamiliar with them in the beginning).

I applied for financial assistance from the Student Assistance Fund, I made use of the various common rooms that are in place around UCC, while I also used student IT services, such as downloading software that is specific to your course free of charge.

Jamie Cullinan

Course: BComm.

 

Year of Study: Final Year (entering)

 

Age when you entered UCC:  24

 

What was your highest qualification prior to applying to UCC (please name the course, and where you completed it, if applicable)?

Leaving Certificate, St Augustine’s College, Dungarvan.

 

What is the best thing about being a Mature Student in UCC?

The best thing about being a mature student in UCC is that people are warm and friendly; staff are understanding and are there to help, and students don’t care whether your 18 or 80.

The college cares about mature students; with the Mature Students Office and other services, there is lots of help out there for you.

What do you plan to do after you complete your degree?

Hopefully, I will pursue a career in Management Consulting. I am currently an Advisory intern in EY, Dublin.

What, if any, were the challenges of being a Mature Student in UCC?

At first, I was also apprehensive of being a mature student but once I started, I loved it.

I think managing my time was the biggest challenge though. I was very lucky that I had a part time job, which enabled me to pursue the degree. However, balancing work, college commitments and societies was a difficult sometimes.

What tips/tricks/advice would you give Mature Students who are entering UCC?

Take up as many opportunities as you can. Get outside your comfort zone by getting involved in Societies and Clubs, running for class rep, going on a year abroad, or volunteering with a charity. Whatever you do, getting to know new people, school leavers and mature students, is one of the most important things you can do in college.

Let the course and people challenge your ideas and experience. A good course and new people will challenge the way you think – go with it.

Reach out to UCC’s services, which are there to help. If in doubt, the MSO is a great resource for you and they can direct you to an office that will deal with your specific needs.

Talk to your lecturers. Academic staff understand the pressures of being a mature student. If you are finding a module tough or are unsure how to approach an assignment, email or call into the lecturer’s office. In my experience, they are always helpful and understanding and they want you to succeed.

 

Are you, or have you, joined any clubs/societies while in UCC?

I joined the Economics Society as First Year Commerce Rep when I began. This was a great way for me to get to know more people and to be able to put down some voluntary experience on the CV. The following year I was elected Vice-Chairman and Conference Convenor. With a great team, we worked hard to produce a range of events for the year, eventually winning ‘The Best Society in a Large College in Ireland 2014’. The best moments of college so far have been with the society. I would encourage all mature students to get involved in clubs and societies.

 

Have you used any of the services in UCC (including the Mature Student Office) that has helped you throughout your degree so far?

The Mature Students Office was the first office I contacted when I was interested in studying in UCC. Gary talked me through the process and the options available to me.  As we began our study in September, the MSO brought us together for induction - so we got to meet other mature students.  Throughout the year, the MSO were very much part of our programme; I took part in some of the courses they provided for students on memory skills, life coaching, and much more. Life coaching was a particularly invaluable resource for me. In addition to the MSO, I have relied on countless resources and supports while in UCC including those relating to health and wellbeing, finance, and education.

Jane Delaney

Course: Zoology

Year of Study: Just finished 4th year (end of degree)

Age when you entered UCC: 26

What was your highest qualification prior to applying to UCC (please name the course, and where you completed it, if applicable)? FETAC Level 6 Certificate in Veterinary Nursing from St. John's Central College, Cork

What is the best thing about being a Mature Student in UCC? There's a lot of support services available, and there seems to be quite a number of mature students in most courses so it's not something that's seen as being that unusual. Noone in my class treated me any differently because I was a Mature Student so it was never really an issue for me.

What do you plan to do after you complete your degree? I'm hoping to do a PhD, I'm currently applying to a number of different universities.

What, if any, were the challenges of being a Mature Student in UCC? It's difficult initially to go back to full-time education when you're used to working and earning a wage, it can also be hard at the beginning to remember some of the subjects from secondary school that you are expected to be familiar with.

What tips/tricks/advice would you give Mature Students who are entering UCC? Try to get to know other mature students if you can and share your experiences and difficulties, it helps to realise you're not the only one who might be struggling at times. Make use of the available support services in the university if you need them, and try not to be too hard on yourself, especially in the first few months, if you are finding the coursework difficult. Trust that you will find your feet and things will get easier in time. And don't forget to enjoy college life and meet lots of new people.

Are you, or have you, joined any clubs/societies while in UCC? I joined the Equestrian Club and competed in showjumping in the Intervarsities in 2014. 

Have you used any of the services in UCC (including the Mature Student Office) that has helped you throughout your degree so far? I used the Student Counselling service in 3rd year when I was having a bit of a hard time with stress and not sleeping very well.  They were really helpful and it's great to have a free service like that for students.  I've also used the Careers service to get advice on what to do after my degree, they can also be a great help to students.

Joe Whelan

Course: Bachelor of social work (BSW) degree.

 

Year of Study: Starting my fourth in September so in my third at present.

Age when you entered UCC: 30

 

What was your highest qualification prior to applying to UCC.

I am a qualified plasterer and hold a national craft certificate in plastering. The awarding body was/is Fetac. There was approximately four years of training which comprised of on the job training with an employer and off the job training with took place in the Cork Institute of Technology. I received my craft cert in 2003.

What is the best thing about being a Mature Student in UCC?

This is a hard one! There are many positive things about being a mature student in UCC. I think it ultimately it comes down to the fact that you want to be there and you know yourself that little bit better. This lends a greater level of appreciation to the experience. You want to be there, you enjoy being there and you want to study what you are studying. Being older and (hopefully) wiser certainly has its advantages in this respect.

What do you plan to do after you complete your degree?

I plan to work as a social worker, which my degree will qualify me to do. At some point in the future I would also love to go on to do further studies.  

What, if any, were the challenges of being a Mature Student in UCC?

Going to college can be challenging in a number of ways. Financially, things can be tight. Also, achieving a balance with life at home can prove difficult. The workload can sometimes seem overwhelming. But you get through it and the rewards are worth it.

 

 

What tips/tricks/advice would you give Mature Students who are entering UCC?

Be organised and if you are the kind of person who is not very organised then learn to be!! It will make your life so much easier. Give yourself personal deadlines and stick to them. When you go to the library have the codes for the books you require written down so you don’t spend too long looking for them. Read widely and learn how to develop arguments by using the literature. Don’t over-rely on past experience, be open to new learning.

Are you, or have you, joined any clubs/societies while in UCC?

No. But many of the clubs and societies appeal to me and I fear this will be my one regret. It is purely down to time constraints that I never got around to joining any. There are clubs and societies in UCC to cater to pretty much every interest and if I had my time over I would certainly make a greater effort to join some.

Have you used any of the services in UCC (including the Mature Student Office) that has helped you throughout your degree so far?

Yes. As I said earlier, college can be financially very challenging. At the beginning of my first year I was informed about the student assistance fund, I also able to contact the Mature Student Office for advice and information in this regard. It has also always been re-assuring to know that services such as the Mature Student Office are there. While I have been fortunate enough not to have needed to turn these services, knowing they are there acts as a bit of a safety blanket and for this reason I wouldn’t be without them.

Kevin Barry

Course: Commerce

Year of Study: Starting third year in September 2015.

Age when you entered UCC: 28

What was your highest qualification prior to applying to UCC (please name the course, and where you completed it, if applicable)?

Leaving Cert.

What is the best thing about being a Mature Student in UCC?

For me I suppose the best thing about been a mature student is all the opportunities that will be available to me once I have completed my degree. I also quite enjoy the Commerce degree modules (subjects), while some are not exactly my cup of tea there are several that I enjoy researching and reading about such as economics and accounting. The people I have meet in UCC have really made the experience enjoyable and I would now count them as some of my closest friends.

What do you plan to do after you complete your degree?

I intend to train as a chartered accountant.

What, if any, were the challenges of being a Mature Student in UCC?

When I first got to UCC in 2013, despite the reassurance from the MSO that we were all very capable of completing a third level degree, I still had some niggling self-doubt as I never saw myself as an “academic” type of person. But after few weeks and after completing my first assignment I started to settle into life as a student and became more confident in my abilities.

 

 

 

What tips/tricks/advice would you give Mature Students who are entering UCC?

Firstly start studying as soon as you can, everyone has their own style of studying that works for them and you don’t want to be figuring out what works for you close to exam time. If you are finding something difficult talk to someone, chances are you’re not the only one. Balance your time between the books and life outside UCC, at times there is a lot to do but if you don’t blow off some stem every now and then you will burn out.

Are you, or have you, joined any clubs/societies while in UCC?

I joined a few in first year and never attended anything, it’s something i regret and intend to rectify next year.

Have you used any of the services in UCC (including the Mature Student Office) that has helped you throughout your degree so far?

I have gotten help from the MSO on several occasions so far. They MSO team has an open door policy so when myself or the other mature students on my course had any issues they are our first port of call.


Louise McCormick

1.  Course:  Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

2.  Year of Study:  2011 – 2015

3.  Age when you entered UCC:  43

4.  What was your highest qualification prior to applying to UCC (please name the course, and where you completed it, if applicable)? 

  • Leaving Certificate, Mount Temple Comprehensive School, 1985
  • Fetac Level 5 in Art, Craft & Design from Carrignafoy Community College, Cobh, Co. Cork in 2006
  • Fetac Level 5 in Sound Engineering and Production from Coláiste Stiofán Naofa, Cork in 2007

5.  What is the best thing about being a Mature Student in UCC?  

I could not say there is one best thing, there are several:

  • Engaging your brain in something new and interesting is an exciting challenge that boosts your confidence and offers a real sense of achievement;
  • It offers a chance to improve your life's trajectory at any age, something that was far more difficult to do in the mid-1980s when I left school because firstly, 3rd level education was not free, therefore economically disadvantaged people were likely to be excluded, and secondly, like many 17-year-olds, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so 3rd level would have been wasted on me back then. Older, wiser and knowing what I wanted meant I gave university my all;
  • Your social network increases exponentially! The fantastic people you meet who share the same enthusiasm for learning and areas of interest is phenomenal and, from those, you will make some of your best friends for life;
  • There are lots of opportunities to do new things, such as volunteering as a Peer Support Leader for new UCC students, which is something I decided to do in my third year. I received a UCC Works Student Life Pathway Award for this work;
  • The support services within UCC are excellent and well worth availing of.

6.  What do you plan to do after you complete your degree?

I have a few short and longer-term goals:

  • I am currently applying for social work jobs. I aim to get into practice, gain experience and find my niche within the social work profession;
  • Because I have achieved so well academically and really enjoy researching and writing, I want to further this by submitting work for publication in peer-reviewed journals, as well as promoting and developing the research undertaken for my final dissertation;
  • My longer-term goal is to search for an interesting and pertinent topic to research and do a post-grad., possibly UCC's PhD in Social Work designed for the practitioner researcher.

7.  What, if any, were the challenges of being a Mature Student in UCC?

  • Initially for me, and many other mature students I spoke to, there was a lack of self-confidence, mainly due to the fact that we had been out of the education sytem for a while and therefore unused to writing with that level of analytical depth, as well as having to learn academic and referencing styles;
  • Family commitments sometimes meant juggling things around and asking others for support in order to get the work done.

8.  What tips/tricks/advice would you give Mature Students who are entering UCC?

  • Choose a subject are you are passionate about and get stuck in;
  • Get to know your fellow students and engage with your department, your tutors and lecturers;
  • If time permits, join a club or society of interest, and use the fantastic gym facilities at the Mardyke;
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling! This is SO important. You will have a Peer Support Leader who could be your first port of call, or you could contact somebody in the Mature Student Office. There are also free counselling services via Student Health, as well as online support tools and Niteline, which is a student telephone support service.

9.  Are you, or have you, joined any clubs/societies while in UCC?

  • I briefly joined the Choral Society – it is fantastic but was too much of a time commitment for me unfortunately.

10.  Have you used any of the services in UCC (including the Mature Student Office) that has helped you throughout your degree so far?

  • I used the Student Health Services for counselling (free), physio (about half price you'd pay elsewhere) and to get immunisation jabs;
  • I got CV advice from the Career's Service;
  • I used the facilities in the Mature Student Common Room (computers, printing and making tea) on occasion;
  • The staff in the Social Work Department were also extremely helpful throughout my four years of study.

Naomi Dowds

Course: BA Single Honours (Sociology, Philosophy)

 

Year of Study: Final/3rd year

 

Age when you entered UCC: 28

 

What was your highest qualification prior to applying to UCC (please name the course, and where you completed it, if applicable)?

FETAC Level 5 in "Practical Sustainability and Permaculture", completed at Kinsale Further Education College in 2008.

 

What is the best thing about being a Mature Student in UCC?

While the lecturers and courses are fantastic, the library is excellent, and the campus is beautiful, honestly I think the best thing about being a Mature Student at UCC is the Mature Student Office itself.   They are incredibly supportive and helpful, and are an excellent resource and starting point for putting you in touch with other supports throughout the university also.  I can say this from my own personal experience as well as being aware of the experience of others.

 

What do you plan to do after you complete your degree?

 I am very excited to be starting a PhD Track in Sociology here at UCC this September.

 

What, if any, were the challenges of being a Mature Student in UCC?

For me, the challenges of being a Mature Student at UCC were juggling my studies with my responsibilities outside of college.  Finding the balance between studying, parenting, employment, and down-time and rest can prove difficult.

 

What tips/tricks/advice would you give Mature Students who are entering UCC?  

I would say definitely make use of the MSO if you need anything.  Also, it is so important to be organised about your time so that you don't get overwhelmed by your workload coming up to exams.  And if you have a question, don't be afraid to ask!  The lecturers and tutors, the library staff, the IT staff, the MSO staff - they are all there to help!

 

Are you, or have you, joined any clubs/societies while in UCC?  

In theory I did join some societies, but as a single parent I did not find the opportunity to join in with society events or activities much as they almost always happen in the evenings.  I regret this as I would have very much liked to have been involved in some of the societies, and it is something I think UCC needs to look at in terms of making the whole realm of the student experience more accessible to Mature Students.

 

Have you used any of the services in UCC (including the Mature Student Office) that has helped you throughout your degree so far?  

Yes, I used the MSO a few times during my degree, particularly during the first half of my second year, and I am very grateful for the support they gave me at that time as I might not have continued with my degree otherwise.

Sarah Moloney

Course: BSc General Nursing

 

Year of Study: Year 3

 

Age when you entered UCC: 28

 

What was your highest qualification prior to applying to UCC

I qualified as a member of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers and worked in the property industry for 11 years prior to applying for the four year degree programme in general nursing at UCC.

 

What is the best thing about being a Mature Student in UCC

Being an undergraduate mature student in UCC allowed me to study in an area I was interested in and provided access to a network of supports which has been hugely beneficial in allowing me to achieve my academic goals. In Year 1 and Year 2 I received College Scholarship Award in recognition of my academic achievements and was also privileged to attend the Quercus Scholar lecture series on the latest research across a range of disciplines.

 

There are a wide variety of opportunities available to mature students in UCC. In my own experience I was selected to travel to Finland as part of an Erasmus programme to research eHealth and work with students from different countries. This opportunity was invaluable in supporting my studies and competencies. The overall experience as a mature student in UCC has allowed me to gain knowledge and develop practical, professional and personal experience. I could not be happier with the decision I made to take up a degree course in General Nursing in UCC.

 

What do you plan to do after you complete your degree

At present my aim is to achieve an honours degree and qualify as a Registered General Nurse. There are great opportunities now available for graduates and my hope would  be to further my education and work in a specialised area.

 

What, if any, are the challenges of being a Mature Student in UCC

For me, life as a mature student with a young family has been challenging at times, however, there are many supports and facilities in place in UCC to help students. It can be stressful coming up to exam and assignment time but I have been fortunate in the friendships I have made with other mature students and we help and support each other.

 

What tips/tricks/advice would you give Mature Students who are entering UCC

My advice to any prospective mature student would be to do your research on the many courses available, to gather all the information before you apply by attending open days, talking to current students, make full use of the resources available within the college and do not be afraid to ask questions.

 

Are you, or have you, joined any clubs/societies while in UCC

I joined the Nursing and Midwifery Society, Mature Students Society, Surgical Society, UCC Planning Society and I assisted each year with UCC Cancer Society ‘Relay for Life’. I am an active member in the Mardyke Sports Arena, enjoy training on UCC athletics track and also follow UCC Health Matters online.

 

Have you used any of the services in UCC (including the Mature Student Office) that has helped you throughout your degree so far?

The Open Evenings and Transition to University workshop, run by the mature student office, and the volunteer peer support leaders provided me with information about starting my first year in UCC and gave me the opportunity to meet other mature students.

 

Both the Boole and Brookfield libraries and IT workshops were of great benefit in preparing me for my assignments and the UCC First Year Experience mobile app helps me to find my way around campus and keep up-to-date with events.

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