Lauren shows school pupils how to follow in her footsteps to university

Lauren Symons

The University of Sussex’s efforts to encourage First Generation Scholars paid off for Lauren Symons, who graduates on 14 July with a BA in Media Practice.

Lauren began regular visits to the university’s campus from aged 13 when she was in year 9 at Shoreham Academy. “I didn’t have too much knowledge about university education but these visits helped me think about what might be possible. Sussex was the University I visited most and the one I liked the best so that prompted me to look up the grades I would need to get in,” says Lauren.

The campus visits also helped her understand the range of subjects on offer and how different university education would be to school. “The university’s work with my school gave me a new knowledge. It meant I was able to start thinking about my future in a different way,” says Lauren.

Although she lived locally, Lauren opted to immerse herself completely in university life and live in one of the university’s residential halls.

“The University’s First Generation Scholar scheme, which offers cash bursaries, extra support and help finding careers, definitely helped boost my confidence when I got here,” says Lauren.

Having benefited so much from the University’s Widening Participation activities herself, Lauren was keen to become a student ambassador and inspire younger people to follow her path.

“One of the first things I had to do was be paid by the hour to show my student bedroom to lots of school children,” she says. “I had to warn the other 11 students I lived with that this was going to happen. It was pretty noisy and the children were amazed how small the rooms were and that we shared a bathroom.”

As a senior ambassador in her second year, Lauren went into various local schools to give presentations in assemblies and carry out workshops about higher education for year 9 pupils. She also went to parents’ evenings and carried out taster sessions for Media Studies.

“My message was that you can create your own university experience and you can draw out what you put into it.”

By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Thursday, 9 July 2015