My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

The place to ask about degree courses, conversion courses, masters, PhD or other qualifications. Discuss specific courses, their pros and cons, the content, the application process, different institutions, how to fund them, etc. Includes advice if you have a 2:2 and questions on transcripts
Fenella
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My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by Fenella »

Hello ClinPsy

Thanks to the team for a wonderful resource. I’ve been lurking for a while but this is my first post.

I’ll be 36 this year, and have DClinPsy aspirations. I’m currently doing an MSc conversion course. Have done very well so far - am awaiting quite a few module grades, but my current average is 84%. I’m hoping to graduate with a distinction.

Until last year, I had experienced a lifetime of mood instability, inability to focus and extremely low self-esteem. I started a degree in history, dropped out, did almost two years of a degree in midwifery, kicked out for failing an essay three times (probably subconsciously deliberate, as I knew deep down it wasn’t for me but couldn’t admit that to myself). Then I realised I could transfer almost two years’ worth of undergrad credits to the OU and get a BSc Open degree. I completed one second year module plus the entire third year at the OU. I graduated in 2014 with a low 2:1.

My undergrad OU Open degree is comprised of nearly 2 years’ worth of (transferred) midwifery modules. The midwifery transcript is peppered with notes about failed/resat modules and the grades are extremely variable (from 95% on a biology exam to essay grades in the 40s). Of the modules I did at the OU (various social science subjects), I mostly achieved firsts and high 2:1s in the assignments. The reason I got a low 2:1 is that several essays were “compensated”, as I didn’t submit them.

In terms of work, I’ve mostly temped in admin roles. I started another masters in social policy in 2017 but dropped out of that too. The best thing I’ve done in my life so far is be a Samaritan - have done that for four years now. I also lead shifts, train and mentor new Samaritans.

In 2020, at age 34, I was finally given a psychiatric diagnosis which (it may not surprise you!) was ADHD. I can’t tell you how liberating it is and how much my life has changed with medication plus specialised techniques for organising etc. Also being classified as a disabled student for the first time! There is no way I’d have succeeded on this conversion course without the diagnosis, meds and support.

So, to my questions:
- my undergrad degree is extremely difficult and lengthy to explain to people. It can also attract negative judgment. Does anyone have any views/tips on how I should frame it when applying for jobs and eventually the doctorate?
- if I do get the distinction in the conversion course, will this come across as a lovely, stand-out redemption narrative? :lol: Or will I still be at a disadvantage compared to those whose academic success was consistent from a young age?
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workingmama
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by workingmama »

My own concern would be whether you can find a way to evidence your capacity for sustained stability/attention/focus. The doctorate is rather 'all hands on deck' for the full three years and so evidence of bursts of high attainment wouldn't reassure me that you have both ability and sustainability. Your diagnosis sounds like a really positive moment for you, and you have had a year now to discover what additional support and scaffolding you need to perform at your best. This is helpful and you can think about how to 'sell' this as a positive. I'd concentrate on thinking about how to allay any concerns about your ability to manage sustained high performance. Good luck, and very best wishes.
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Fenella
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by Fenella »

Thanks, that is helpful! It’s true that I absolutely WAS NOT capable of sustained stability/focus at any point pre-diagnosis and meds. So I’m now in the position of trying to turn things around pretty quickly (I want to find a relationship and ideally have a family, too…). It’s very useful to understand how I might come across to people & what to focus on in selling myself.
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miriam
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by miriam »

I think you can tell the story you told us - that you didn't find your subject niche or have the recognition of your own attentional deficits in the past, but that now you do have a subject you are passionate about and the medication/insight/strategies that address your needs you are showing yourself to your full potential. You can showcase the strengths and resilience you have gained in that journey, and the insights from lived experience. I think that makes a persuasive story - if you couple it with showing the applied skills needed for each role, tailored applications and a willingness to graft and see things through.

A distinction in the conversion is definitely a positive, and the OU are well regarded in my experience. However there are some jobs and courses where they do consider the undergraduate grades and transcript - including some where this will rule you out entirely - so be vigilant for this in picking where you apply. Even amongst those who are more open to later marks as evidence of academic potential, the level of competition is very high so you will find you are up against a lot of people who have got firsts and/or distinctions and/or more applied experience. So functionally, your history might make a challenging path have additional hurdles, but it doesn't sound impossible if you are determined and willing to give it some time*.

When it comes to jobs, the key is to show transferable skills, and to gain the relevant experiences in a way that shows staying power rather than a scattergun approach of trying lots of things at once or moving from one role to another quickly. There is a chance that someone could look at your history and think you are a bit of a flake who won't stick with their job, because you have started a lot of things you haven't finished (even though in hindsight there are reasons that might explain this) - so I'd suggest applying for high turnover jobs where this won't matter and then sticking with it for as long as possible**. A year or more in a role in a care setting, or as a classroom support, or rehab assistant, or working on a research project would really help to show the past patterns are behind you. And if you get the opportunity, a publication can also be a positive way to stand out and demonstrate academic skills, focus and perseverance.

When it comes to clinical courses, you can think about whether to target those with assessment days (as they focus more on your skills on the day than your history) or whether to target courses that are more reflective and/or more positive about lived experiences. That will depend on how well you feel you perform in exam conditions!

*And this, of course, is the kicker - especially if you are a little older and feeling the pressure to also think about your personal life and/or earning more than most of these first step jobs pay - as it may take several years to gain the experiences to get a training place for three more years of doctoral training, and there is no certainty in the outcome. So you need to have a think about whether this is the right option for you when there might be faster, more certain and/or better paid routes to similar roles.
**Taking any opportunities for progression or professional development on offer, and perhaps connecting with a psychologist in the organisation or on a voluntary basis to supplement this after 6-9 months, but the key is to show staying power and get a great reference
Miriam

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Fenella
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by Fenella »

Omg thanks for taking the time, Miriam! Such a detailed response and much to think about. :)
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by mungle »

I'd echo what has been said above and just want to add three things:

1) The psychology conversion - are you doing this through the OU? If yes, it's worth seeing (it could be done in the past) if by adding an extra module and using transferred credit from your open degree, you could do it as a OU psychology degree rather than PGDip conversion (the difference used to be a 30-credit mind & biology module and 75 credits of transferred credit but do check the current rules). You may find it easier to get over the academic hurdles to getting on the dclinpsy if your psychology degree is a 1st rather than a Distinction on the PGDip conversion.

2) Consider what are your strengths from the ADHD and more generally (and how do these lead you to CP)

3) Do think about how you'd manage the academic work and competing demands of clinical, research and academic work during training, and think about whether this is something you want to put yourself through and if you think you could do it successfully.
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miriam
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by miriam »

mungle wrote: Fri Jul 09, 2021 2:32 pm I'd echo what has been said above and just want to add three things:

1) The psychology conversion - are you doing this through the OU? If yes, it's worth seeing (it could be done in the past) if by adding an extra module and using transferred credit from your open degree, you could do it as a OU psychology degree rather than PGDip conversion (the difference used to be a 30-credit mind & biology module and 75 credits of transferred credit but do check the current rules). You may find it easier to get over the academic hurdles to getting on the dclinpsy if your psychology degree is a 1st rather than a Distinction on the PGDip conversion.
Yes, this is a strange quirk in the system that is worth thinking about, as it would replace the need to give any information about your prior degree if it was a BSc in psychology rather than an MSc conversion course.
Miriam

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Fenella
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by Fenella »

mungle wrote: Fri Jul 09, 2021 2:32 pm The psychology conversion - are you doing this through the OU? If yes, it's worth seeing (it could be done in the past) if by adding an extra module and using transferred credit from your open degree, you could do it as a OU psychology degree rather than PGDip conversion (the difference used to be a 30-credit mind & biology module and 75 credits of transferred credit but do check the current rules). You may find it easier to get over the academic hurdles to getting on the dclinpsy if your psychology degree is a 1st rather than a Distinction on the PGDip conversion.
No. I don’t think the OU do a conversion course actually - they have an MSc Psychology course, but it isn’t BPS-accredited. I’m doing the conversion elsewhere.
mungle wrote: Fri Jul 09, 2021 2:32 pm 3) Do think about how you'd manage the academic work and competing demands of clinical, research and academic work during training, and think about whether this is something you want to put yourself through and if you think you could do it successfully.
Thanks for taking the time to reply, but I have to say I find this quite patronising. Whether I have properly considered my own capabilities is for me alone to decide, and it wasn’t my question. The question was asking how I might come across, and how to present myself. I do infer from what you (and others) say, though, that as things stand there will be scepticism about my ability to perform consistently. That’s fair enough and I clearly need to think about accumulating evidence to the contrary.
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maven
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by maven »

Fenella wrote: Fri Jul 09, 2021 8:13 pm Thanks for taking the time to reply, but I have to say I find this quite patronising. Whether I have properly considered my own capabilities is for me alone to decide, and it wasn’t my question. The question was asking how I might come across, and how to present myself. I do infer from what you (and others) say, though, that as things stand there will be scepticism about my ability to perform consistently. That’s fair enough and I clearly need to think about accumulating evidence to the contrary.
I don't think it is patronising at all. It is a polite and constructive response to what you asked, so the disproportionately defensive response seems to reflect your insecurities rather than what Mungle actually wrote. She isn't saying she doesn't think you can meet the demands of a course, but that you need to think about HOW you will do so and whether it will be a positive and successful experience, given the challenges you have talked about, or a frustrating route towards something you can achieve less painfully by another means (eg if you wanted to train in other forms of therapy that have less academic and more applied skills). As we've all said, you are asking about how you can show you are suitable for a highly demanding and competitive doctorate course, and shortlisters (and employers of AP posts) will want to know that you've thought about the demands involved, what adaptations (if any) you are asking for, and how you will manage this intense level of competing demands and autonomy - which will entail a big step up from the courses you've done to date.
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare
Fenella
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by Fenella »

maven wrote: Sat Jul 10, 2021 1:08 pm
Fenella wrote: Fri Jul 09, 2021 8:13 pm Thanks for taking the time to reply, but I have to say I find this quite patronising. Whether I have properly considered my own capabilities is for me alone to decide, and it wasn’t my question. The question was asking how I might come across, and how to present myself. I do infer from what you (and others) say, though, that as things stand there will be scepticism about my ability to perform consistently. That’s fair enough and I clearly need to think about accumulating evidence to the contrary.
you are asking about how you can show you are suitable for a highly demanding and competitive doctorate course, and shortlisters (and employers of AP posts) will want to know that you've thought about the demands involved, what adaptations (if any) you are asking for, and how you will manage this intense level of competing demands and autonomy - which will entail a big step up from the courses you've done to date.
Yes, my response was unnecessary, actually. Apologies.

The more academic side to CP is exactly why I want to do it. Despite having ADHD (which meds do now help with), I’ve always had high academic ability, and need intellectual stimulation as well as the applied side. I’ve actually LOVED the stats & research methods modules on the conversion course, and was lucky not to find them at all difficult.

I suppose my “giftedness” (as labelled at school) was the main thing I held on to through all those years of pain & frustration. So the suggestion that I might not be suitable for a highly demanding academic career (from my perspective, I’ve finally found out what was holding me back) really hurts. However, no one here can read my mind of course! Given the extent of the difficulties I’ve had, I guess mungle’s response was quite reasonable. I am really sorry if I caused any offence, and thanks again to all for kindly taking the time.
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by maven »

Thanks Fenella. Apologies on the internet are rare as hens' teeth, but stand out positively because of that. I hope I'd be as willing to hold my hands up when I express my views badly, or get things wrong - as we all do from time to time.

It sounds like you've thought about this a lot, and hopefully the suggestions on this thread will help you target your efforts going forward. Good luck with it, and do stick around and let us know how it goes.
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare
Fenella
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by Fenella »

Thank you Maven, I will :)
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by sweatered »

This was a lovely read - I'm rooting for you, Fenella. :)
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Fenella
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by Fenella »

Thanks sweatered, that’s so kind of you xx
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Re: My undergrad degree & past are difficult to explain!

Post by mungle »

If it helps, I would state my number 3 to ANYONE considering CP. This is naturally coloured my own experience of training.

I do believe my number 2 question, that there will be strengths you bring because of ADHD.

Sometimes it's so difficult to convey or pick up tone in internet posts! It was useful for me to reflect on how such a question might be interpreted and I'll think about how I do that in discussions in person where I have space and can use tone, body language etc.

I wish you all the best.
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