Tag: Univeristy College Cork

Mature Students (From UCC Express)

Although the majority of students start UCC at roughly nineteen years old and graduate three or four years later at the age of 22 or 23, a considerable amount of students opt to complete their undergraduate degree at an older age for professional and personal reasons. A person is qualified as a mature student if they are least 23 year old on January 1st of the year they enter the course of their choice. However there are a limited number of places available and reserved for mature students for courses.

There are also several services in place at UCC to ensure that college life is a happy and productive experience for both prospective and current mature students. Established in 2004, the Mature Student Office has been supporting mature students throughout their time in UCC with workshops, advice and examination preparation. There is also the mature student common room located at the Windle Building was opened in 2012 for students to meet and socialise. The Mature Student Society organises events and socials as a chance for mature students to integrate into college life in the best way possible. According to the society constitution, they are “formed with the purpose of making both the social and academic aspects of the experience of returning to education for the Mature Students at UCC easier and more pleasurable.”

James McCleane-Fay is a 25 year old first year Applied Psychology student. His reason for attending UCC was because he “really wanted to do this course. I had worked in 9-5 office jobs for about 6 years and decided I wanted to return and do something more meaningful. I knew I wanted a career to be proud of, work hard in and enjoy. The job to me was just money and the promise of the weekend off.”

His favourite part about being a mature student is “already having some working knowledge of different concepts in the subjects we’ve chosen to study. Generally we study things we’re passionate about and this helps motivate us too, so that’s a plus. We tend to study what we’d like to, without pressures from peers or parents typically.”

James states the academic difficulties of being a mature student including “balancing a demanding work/home/study life, the assumption of knowledge that we should have from Leaving Cert and having to unlearn a particular way of thinking that you’ve held for a very long time.” He also believes that some people struggle to adapt socially in college life.

He believes there are some made-up stereotypes such as “the guy who never shuts up about Woodstock in the middle of a lecture.” Although he claims that there are no real stereotypes, James states several differences between school leavers and mature students. “We’re less concerned about fitting in than many of the school leavers.” James encourages mature students to integrate with the school leavers more. “Getting past your own bias towards them being younger is the best way for them to get past any trepidation they might have about being friends with someone older.”

Crystal Leiker is a 33 year old first year Masters student of Planning and Sustainable Development. She became a mature student for a combination of reasons. “I was working in a legal office in the middle of 2009 in America. My job was to call mortgage holders who were about to be foreclosed upon and inform them of the date they were to leave their home, and how much they must pay to remain in it… The work was soul destroying. I never felt the need to return to education as I had always managed to get decent employment without it. The “Great Recession” changed all that.  But I remember coming home every day from that firm; depressed, sad from the stories I heard, scouring

the job listings and seeing none. I knew then that I wanted to do something better with my life, and to help others. It just so happened that I had this opportunity in front of me to come here. I didn’t think twice once it presented itself.”

She applied to her course throug the MSAP (Mature Students Admissions Pathway) to qualify for the marks needed. “I was admitted as an international student owing to my citizenship status. Despite this, I affiliate with the mature students far more than the international students.”

Crystal states best thing about being a mature student for her is “having a second chance to finish the education that I laughed off in my late teens and I am surrounded by people from all walks of life, with all manner of circumstances. I love the integration with everyone, being able to relate to my peers both older and younger than I am. Best of all, I love learning, and UCC has the facilities in place to let me do that.”

Crystal states personal issues as a mature student. “It is never easy to come back into education when you are older. In addition to loss of income and juggling my normal responsibilities with the new ones that come from University, I have the added pressure of studying in another country. I have a family. They recognise the sacrifice I made to come back, and while they may not always agree with me about doing it, I have their respect for doing so.”

As well as the personal sacrifices Crystal faces other challenges. “I have never been able to sit an exam comfortably and suffer from a great deal of exam anxiety. It’s a struggle to convince myself that I didn’t fail. Sometimes we just need someone we can talk to, who actually understands what it’s like to be older and in 3rd level education. It’s why the mature students here at UCC are a tightly-knit but welcoming community.”

Crystal believes prejudice towards mature students is prominent. “Over the last 4 years, I have heard some interesting stereotypes about how the old people are hogging the resources of the lecturers and tying up the lecture because we are asking questions. Maybe it’s just easier for those with a bit of life experience to ask questions. She even explains that mature students struggle more in university. “Retention rates of mature students are 15% lower than their younger peers. The first year summer exam fail rate is 25% for mature students. Much of this can be attributed to very little resources allocated for us, life pressures and discrimination. Ageism is a very real thing in UCC, though it is rarely overt.

She also believes there is a lack of communication between mature students and school leavers. “There is exclusion that happens in many courses because the perception is we don’t want to engage with our younger peers. That can’t be further from the truth – we love integrating. What some younger students don’t really consider is, we have children, significant others, ageing parents, bills and mortgages that is going on simultaneously. If we can come out for a class night out, we will- but if we can’t, we can’t. We as mature students have a load of life experiences that can add to the richness of this campus and we do.”


“Enabled on Campus” (ORIGINAL VERSION)

The student population of UCC is approximately 20,000 people who are diverse in every which way possible; from age, race, nationality, beliefs, sexual orientation and of course, disability. Even in the disability bracket alone, it is a diverse amount from visual and hearing impairment, to needing a wheelchair and long-term illnesses, to mental and emotional disabilities such as Down syndrome, dyslexia and autism. Here at UCC, there are over 900 students with disabilities and are registered to the Disability Support Service (DSS), including myself.

My name is Louise Clancy. I am a second year student in Arts International, studying English and Sociology. I also have Asperger’s Syndrome. Over the years I had a couple of issues with confidence, behaviour and socialising with others in school. However, I found that college has helped improve my Asperger’s overall. Living away from home and joining several societies has helped me get better at talking to new people and being organised. I still struggle with writing down notes quickly, processing a lot of information in a short space of time, remembering to do important things at the right time and not being able to control my emotions under stress. As a result, my Asperger’s is a big factor in making important decisions such as my Erasmus year, as I will need support services wherever I will study. Luckily the DSS have been great to me. They have given me note-taking services, enabled me to use my voice recorder in class, helped me get revision grinds, provided me an alternative room for my exams, and helped me write my CV. Not only have the DSS been supportive in the past, they are also willing to help me out with my future.

Muireann, a second year Film & Screen Media student has mild cerebral palsy

and it is specifically Right Hemiplegia “meaning that the CP has affected the right side of my body”. Muireann believes that one of her biggest challenges with her Cerebral Palsy for her college work is when she would “get tired very easily from carrying heavy text books around hurts by back, it is hard to take down notes fast enough in class, as I can’t keep up with the lecturers, meaning I need AT equipment, such as a microphone to record lectures. Also, I need a scribe and separate room in order to complete exams as without that help, I wouldn’t be able to complete them in time.” In her social life in college she states her biggest challenge would be “my confidence regarding people’s perceptions of disability and what they might think of me. But so far, nearly everyone I have encountered here, have been understanding and supportive.” Muireann is also satisfied with how UCC and the Disability Support Service have helped and supported her during her time in college so far. “They have, from the beginning, understood my needs and provided the supports which I need to have a fulfilling and enjoyable university experience. I found that the supports here are better than the ones I had in school because, they have more experience and the services were tailored to my exact needs.” She also thinks that UCC do not need to make any major improvements for students with disabilities.

Brian, an Environmental Science student, has both Asperger’s syndrome and Dysgraphia. He states that his Dysgraphia affects his college work because it “makes it very hard to write coherently or clearly. It’s impossible to take efficient notes in lectures or write in a tight time limit.” Brian states that his Asperger’s can affect his social life in college because it “makes it difficult to approach social situations without becoming anxious about how I’ll behave in them, and causes me to worry about how I’ll behave in them when I actually go.” He believes that the DSS have been “immensely helpful” to his college career since his diagnosis. He claims because of the Disability Support Service, “They ensure I have learning support, tutors, access to a quiet lab in the library, a separate room and scribe for written exams, and almost anything else I could need to make up for Dysgraphia and Asperger’s.” He also thinks that UCC have good infrastructure for students with disabilities. “I’ve yet to speak to someone on campus who was dissatisfied with the campus’ attention to its disabled students and faculty members. Apparently the lift in the Boole is a bit scary, but that’s about it!”

For students with disabilities, UCC has greatly acknowledged the need for services on campus. From a good standard of accessibility in and around the buildings, to the Disability Activism and Awareness Society which is run by students for students to raise awareness to a variety of issues, and the Disability Support Service. The DSS run a wide range of services for students such as Pre-entry Programmes, Education Supports, Sports & Leisure, Lifestyle Coaching, Careers Advice, and Mentoring Support Programme. With the help of these supports in UCC, there is nothing that can stop these students with from reaching their full potential.

What College Means To Me: A Look Back On First Year

Since my relatives decided to go there, I wanted to go to University College Cork. Seeing them go through their time living in the city I always felt that I would never get to that stage. That it was always out of reach. This feeling amplified when I got into Leaving Cert when I feared that I’ll have to repeat because I wasn’t smart enough. Or that autistic people never go to college, purely because I didn’t know anyone who did. Although I loved my six years in secondary school, Leaving Cert was hell and I did things I am not proud of. As I was getting nearer graduation, I just wanted to fast forward to September because I would be anywhere else and I would be happy because it wasn’t the Leaving Cert. On October 12th 2012, I went on an open day to UCC. I considered doing Arts because I wanted to study English. Looking at the other arts subjects and the college itself, I saw myself there in the future and it felt right.

I also discovered the course Arts International. It was exactly like Arts, except everyone in the course could study abroad in third year, no matter what subject you did. My brother went to America when I was in Junior Cert and my sister went to Scotland when I was in Leaving Cert. They loved it and as my mother says “it was the makings of them”. I always wanted to travel and I knew I’d need more time to develop as a person (which is also why I did Transition Year when I was 17).

I finished my exams on June 13th 2013. Two months later, shortly after my 20th birthday, I got my results. I got 435 points, which I knew was enough to get into UCC. The following Monday, the CAO offers came out. Arts International in UCC was offered to me and I accepted. I checked the number of points the course on the paper: 430. That made my success even sweeter. 


I picked my subjects in arts: English, Sociology, Philosophy and Greek & Roman Civilisation. I moved into my college house a week before classes started. I got registered on the orientation day and got my student card. I met new people at my house. We had an orientation party. I got advice from my sister. Things were looking great.


I started college on September 16th 2013. My first class was Greek & Roman Civilisation. Shortly after, I met a girl in the UCC gift shop (which I’ll call her Mrs Potter). She was the first friend I ever made in college that stuck. We talked about Harry Potter and Korean dramas that day. I sat next to her in Greek & Roman since then.


I was a little nervous of what I had to learn, especially English. The timetable was misleading. I wasn’t registered to Blackboard. I joined tae kwon do and several societies (perhaps too many). I watched Iron Man 3 with a boy I liked in the sci-fi society. There was the Freshers Ball which was amazing fun.

Week 2 was not fun because I had laryngitis, which was painful and made it harder to socialise with new people. That week, I discovered the Mythological Society. They talked about myths in Marvel Comics. It was interesting. A few weeks later, I accidentally became first year rep for myth soc.

By October, my one friend Mrs Potter, I could only meet her at Greek & Roman. The boy I liked stopped hanging out with me. I was so lonely. That changed on the open day. Myth Soc had to promote themselves and I was roped in with the OCM (who I’ll call Pony Boy). We set up the stall together. We chatted, struggled to steal tables and we became friends. The following Thursday, he introduced me to his friend (who I’ll call Happy). I discovered that the three of us did Philosophy and we became “The Philosophy Three”. Happy also became my friend and I also sat next to him in Greek & Roman. 

Since late 2012, I wanted to be a journalist. I was encouraged to join Motley magazine by my mother. My first article was about selfies and Snapchat. When I saw it published for the first time, I was so happy. As the months went on, I did more articles, learned a few lessons and even got to interview Elyar Fox. The editor loved my work and even wanted me to apply for the editorial team. I fell in love with journalism and I want to do it for the rest of my life.

I took opportunities, talked to people through societies. I even rose up the ranks to OCM and Events & Equipment Officer in Myth Soc. I went to screenings regularly at Sci-fi. I attended two anime conventions: Eirtakon in November and Kaizoku Con in March. My small group of friends became even stronger after helping move in to my 2nd (and much nicer) flat. I had fun times, went to a few parties, watched animes, played Cards Against Humanity, hung out in McDonalds at 11pm, became a tae kwon do fighter, and worked hard when needed.


College even made love my family more than I already did. I became more grateful for what my parents did to help get me here. Nobody expected a screaming 3 year old with autism to become this person in 2014. On my month off, I studied with my sister every day in the library and sometimes during the year we would eat pizza together and watch Graham Norton at her house or my house.

So the question is this: what does college mean to me? It means EVERYTHING! It made me more confident, happier and smarter. it gave me friends, experience, and this is the best thing to ever happen to me and I am so grateful for it all.  

One year down, three to go.