I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a student who took a foundation year. Well, not anymore. Every student I come across who has taken a foundation year agrees that there is at least some level of stigma surrounding the course. The stigma takes form in both stereotypes about the difficulty of the course we take, but also about the type of person who takes the course.
Foundation years are often misunderstood. In short, they are a preparation year for undergraduate courses. They often require lower acceptance grades, the foundation year I enrolled in only required three C’s in my A Levels. Foundation year coursework and exams are very similar to degree level, but we receive a higher level of support from the faculty and our advisors. We also have to fulfil requirements to get onto our chosen undergraduate course, for me I had to pass the year with a 2:1. We earn the right to be at university, but we are often met with confused looks and dubiousness. The negative response we receive from the majority of our peers can lead us to feel self-conscious and, for me, it has made me feel like I’ve had to prove myself.
Jamie Woodward, another student who took a foundation year, agreed that a stigma exists. He remarked, ‘I felt that as soon as someone found out that I took a foundation year, they changed the way they acted around me, that they thought I was less of a person, dumb or stupid’. Paige Allen commented ‘Especially once you start your undergraduate course, I agree that there’s an added pressure to push yourself once you’ve taken a foundation year because we’ve worked for a whole year trying to prove we are capable of completing our degrees.’
In addition to feeling as if I needed to constantly prove my worth within my academic course, I was worried that I would feel out of place in my first year of my undergraduate course. There were many reasons for this – I would be a year older than my peers, I would have been at uni a year already and I would no longer be living on campus. In all honesty, a lot of my worrying was unnecessary. My age didn’t matter at all – a lot of students take gap years or switch courses, so I felt less out of place. Secondly, I had a great group of friends surrounding me, I didn’t feel like I had to live on campus to feel included. Additionally, being at university for a year already was very helpful – I knew the library system, the layout of campus and the ins and outs of referencing.
My foundation year made the transition from sixth form to university a lot easier, and I’m glad it has meant I have an extra year at UEA. It really is the home of the wonderful. There is a similar stigma surrounding students who get into university through clearing. Both circumstances mean that the typical entry requirements weren’t met, but also lead to students feeling like they have to make up for lower A level grades in other ways, either excelling at their degree or taking on lots of extra curriculars. To anyone who has gotten in to UEA through clearing, or is beginning a foundation year – it is important to remember that the university wouldn’t allow clearing students or foundation year students on to undergraduate course if they didn’t have faith that we would succeed and thrive. We’ve put in enough work in order to be considered able to complete full degrees, and we often get the same level of degree as our peers.
Don’t let how you go into UEA define you, you are so much more than your foundation year.