BSc Science student Michelle Dooley shared her experience as a mature student at SETU recently with the Irish Examiner before commencing her final year of studies.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Michelle says she was offered a place on the BSc Science degree at South East Technological University, Waterford, in 2018, Michelle Dooley felt totally unprepared and deferred it for a year.

“I was petrified. I didn’t think I’d get the place and I didn’t have the confidence to go into it,” recalls the 34-year-old single mum of four children, aged 17, 13, nine and six.

Better life

But alongside the terror was Michelle’s conviction that she wanted a better life for her children. 

“I wanted that more than I was petrified of going to college. I’m the first ever in my family to do a third-level degree. I wanted my children to see that education is important, that it’s normal to complete second-level, go onto third-level.” 

She also had a “now-or-never” sense about it. “I thought it’s only four years – and those four years will pass anyway, whether I go or not.” 

Michelle, who’d previously given up part-time work in retail so as to focus on her children, is now starting the final year of her degree. 

“Single mothers might think going to college isn’t very achievable, but it is. Don’t get me wrong – there are days when the house is upended. We’re running behind the clock all the time.

Positive effect

“But college has had such a profoundly positive effect on me – without them behind me, I don’t know how far I’d have got. Days I couldn’t go into college because the kids were sick, there was never any judgment. There was only ever support.” 

Describing regular clashes between her college timetable and school collection/extra-curricular drop-off, Michelle says: “There are times when I get one day off every two weeks, but I love the course, the college – I’m passionate about it.” 

Her course choice is because she has “loved Science forever” and she wants to also do a Masters. “Four years ago I’d have laughed that I’d be considering a Masters. I’ve a lot more confidence in my abilities now.” 

She hopes to become a physician associate, “a relatively new role that complements the medical team”.

The motto that keeps her going, she heard from a lecturer just weeks into her first year – ‘you didn’t come this far to only come this far’.

“I remember it because it’s true,” says Michelle.