Carl Smith, 28 from Trent Vale, is the first person in his family to go to university after believing that higher education would never be for him.
After struggling in school, Carl worked in retail but his interest in people led him to apply to study BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling at Staffordshire University.
He explained: “I was always interested in people, and people would come to me and talk to me about problems. I was thinking about how I can turn this into a career.
“I’d never really thought about coming to university. For me, I didn’t really do well in education, so it was something I didn’t think about. After joining and getting to know the staff, everyone has been so welcoming and so supportive.”
Carl secured a place on the foundation year to help prepare him for the degree, delivered at Stoke-on-Trent College. After noticing that he was expressing himself well verbally but was not performing as well in his written work, Carl’s lecturers encouraged him to get a learning support diagnosis.
Carl said: “Staffordshire University really helped me with that path and getting a diagnosis. I was diagnosed with dyspraxia at the University and that gave me a lot of insight into why I was struggling previously in high school and college. It really opened me up and pushed me forward.”
Progressing onto the degree course, Carl made friends and got stuck into his studies with additional support to help him with his work. In his second year, Carl was also diagnosed with autism but didn’t let it hold him back.
“When I got my diagnoses, it completely changed my outlook on the life that I’ve had so far. Everything made sense and I just felt like I knew who I was.
“I didn’t feel like a mature student. I got along with everybody on my course and everybody was so welcoming. It got to a point where everyone on my course felt like a little family.”
Carl has graduated with first-class honours and has applied to do a Master’s in Psychotherapeutic Counselling with the goal of becoming a private psychotherapist and helping others.
He added: “The University have been so helpful in supporting me through every single year, every single module. I can’t put into words how grateful and appreciative I am to the staff who have helped me along the way.”
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