Shilla's story

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I'm doing an HND in Legal Services at City of Glasgow College.

When I left high school, I didn’t get the qualifications I wanted, so I went into full-time employment in call centres. Then a manager from my residential unit talked to me about what options were open to me – like going to college first, then university.

I was making enough money to pay my bills, but not in something I wanted to do. I think, as someone who’s care experienced, parts of my life were always in the hands of someone else. I thought, if I did the course I would be able to choose things for myself, and go into the job I actually wanted. 

I had to prove I was care-experienced to get the support I was entitled to and I struggled to get the documents together. But my unit manager contacted my social worker and they helped me. So it was a challenge, but I had the support I needed.

When I went to enrol, there was an option to say you’re care-experienced. I ticked the box but I didn't get anything automatically. I had to go to student services and say, 'I’m care-experienced, I’m in full-time education, and my unit manager says I should get discretionary funding'.

You need to go and ask. Because although there might be support there, most colleges and universities don’t come and tell you what you can get. If you have someone who can support you with it, it would make the process easier. For me, it meant I didn't need to deal with the stress of trying to find out all that information.

"My advice is, as soon as you get your place, or even when you consider a college or uni, contact them and ask what support they offer care-experienced students ... the sooner the better!"

I’ve been through quite a lot really, even to the point of just giving up and not realising I was capable of achieving something. Higher education has shown me I can still do what I want in life.

One negative thing happened – I told a lecturer I had ambitions of doing a law degree and being a lawyer. He said, 'people often try and fail to do that'. That was really shocking. I didn’t say much back, but I thought, I can waste time arguing with you, or I can spend time working on what I want in life.  

You should definitely get someone to read your personal statement. Because it’s easy to miss things. I’d also say, don’t feel you have to use complicated language, just be yourself and be honest about the things you’ve done, what you’re trying to achieve, and why you want to do that particular course. Don’t exaggerate anything – they will know! If you say 'I’m constantly studying' – we all know you’re not constantly studying!

You should do a higher education course if you are in a place where you want to regain control of your life. I plan to be a human rights lawyer, mainly with children and families. Also linking it with my own charity which I founded two years ago. Just helping people really, that’s my long-term plan.