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While pursuing academic excellence, age is just a number

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While pursuing academic excellence, age is just a number

My journey to academic success started from a very young age. I have always been a highly competitive person and realised that it wasn’t only enjoyable to push your physical limitations but also your mental ones.

I am not the obvious choice when it comes to labeling someone as an academic – I laugh a lot, I am super chilled, I don’t take much seriously, I look like I spend my life in face masks and salons and quite frankly, I don’t hold a vocabulary which is up to any standards associated with what I would call a Master’s graduate or PhD student, and yet I am here. I achieved a First Class Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree, followed by a distinction in my Master’s degree, and was offered an opportunity to pursue further studies at the PhD level. I can guarantee when you meet me, you would not believe I hold this behind me, and I have grown to accept the shocked faces or disbelief when I am found out! I consider it my super-power in my life.

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BSc Graduation 2017

All great heroes like Spiderman or Batman have their super-powers that the world remains unaware of; so why can’t I?

And more importantly, why can’t you?

When did studying become something only for those who were considered clever? Surely, in our current time, we have discovered enough to know that clever doesn’t exist anymore and it’s our working ethics that set us apart. If you don’t believe in this theory yet, I suggest you start opening your own mind soon! Now, don’t get me wrong. I have met my fair share of ‘clever’ people – the ones who are able to literally know everything and apply everything they know, and do so with little to no effort. We all know those people. My brother, for example, is the epitome of this to me. He, however, finds epitomes of his own on a daily basis. Like with fitness or sport, I believe we need to realise that in the academic world, there is always going to be someone a little ‘higher’ than you as you climb the academic ladder. This should not be your concern when you are considering your journey into higher education. You should only be focused on what is at the top of that ladder-climb. Everyone climbing reaches the top, despite who is higher or lower – you all reach the top. What is important is taking that first step on the ladder.

I believe in education and I believe that everyone has the ability to achieve the academic qualifications they dream of.

There have been so many lessons I have learnt throughout my own climb that I feel I now have a strong enough foundation to offer myself as a supervisor to those who need a helping hand. Before I came up with my business, I wanted to help and find out where I could help. I spoke to friends, family, and fellow students and started gathering aspects which were difficult and which were wasting their time. I wanted to be part of the resolution to these aspects, so that students wouldn’t find simple tasks which could be easily overcome, as the tasks which caused them to drop out. This post is aimed at giving you a background of my academic abilities and skills. Overall, I can safely say I have experienced every form of education. In South Africa, where I grew up, I went to three different secondary schools experiencing education through OBE (Outcomes based learning) and IEB (Independent Examinations Board) via government and private schools. After moving to the UK, I studied as a private candidate through distance learning to complete my GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) in order to have sufficient subjects required for higher education. During this time, I was working full-time and was offered an NVQ 3 (National Vocational Qualification) in Health and Social Care as well as a BTEC level 3 in Management, in my workplace. I also achieved First Aid qualifications through St. Johns Ambulance, from a combination of practical and theoretical applications. Following this, I moved to Kings Lynn, Norfolk, where I completed an Access to Higher Education in Medicine, which was an A-level equivalent qualification. I moved back to Manchester, where I began my Bachelor of Science in Sports Science, in which I was able to achieve a First Class Honours (highest award in the British undergraduate degree classification system). In the summer following my graduation, I had a need to qualify as a Personal Trainer which I was successful in achieving at a level 3 REPS (Register of Exercise Professionals) qualification. A few months later, I began my Master’s and achieved a distinction (70% +), and was accepted on to a PhD program which I am currently starting on 14 January 2019.

My academic lessons didn’t only exist in a classroom, but also on a tennis court. As a junior, I pursued tennis with the hope to turn professional one day. I spent every afternoon on a tennis court or with coaches, learning new techniques and skills to enhance my game. My dad was my major influence in this aspect and spoke tennis more than we spoke English. He loved the game and I was blessed to share his passion my whole life, learning from him and having a secret world of our own. Learning new strokes and strategies, and attempting to apply them in matches was the first major exam pressure I had faced. These feelings still sit in my stomach before any exam, where I find myself having to take a deep breath and visualise my work – as I did during my tennis years. Alongside my own personal experiences, I have also gained my own insight into various other forms of education and academic excellence. My mother was 48 when she started her undergraduate degree in Special Needs Education, and at the age of 52 achieved a First Class Honours, graduating in 2018. This showed me that no matter your age or condition, academic excellence is achievable. My brother has a Bachelor’s of Science in Neuroscience, and is graduating this year with his Bachelor’s of Medicine and Surgery after a 6 year journey. His relentless pursuit of knowledge and perfection throughout his degree is truly something I aspire to every day. My sister (another epitome of ‘clever’) is currently pursuing her GCSE’s through home-schooling; writing her first round of exams this year at the age of 14. I see parts of myself and my brother in her (the good and bad, haha!), but ohhhhh… the good are just so incredibly packed in her little head! I honestly cannot wait to see what she is able to become in the next few years! Once again, this path of hers clearly shows that age is only a number in pursuing academic excellence.

Today, I call myself a PhD student. I am currently working on publishing my Master’s dissertation research, and starting to set out on the long task that lies ahead in my PhD research. Alongside these academic goals, my personal goals, which are also academically related, begin with this blog and my supervision business.

I am asked often why I continue to study?

Studying, to me, is fun. Yes, there are rules you are governed by throughout your degree, but there are rules in games and that doesn’t stop them from being fun. You just have to figure out which game you enjoy and which rules you can abide by. Secondly, studying is not just studying, and a qualification is not just a qualification. I will be coming back to these topics in future blogs where I will discuss what you can do with qualifications, but today I will simply say: What matters most is WHAT YOU DO WITH YOUR DEGREE!

For me, I want to leave my name and my thoughts in print. I love the idea of being published, and being part of the papers students will read for years and years in the future. I love the idea that someone like me can leave a little idea, concept or suggestion for someone who knows more, to further expand and make something great of it. I love that when I read a journal I see the missing links and go to bed at night wondering about possibilities. This is what I want to use my degrees for. I want to use them to continue building the academic world and help inspire future academics to continue to grow, enhance, and change the world we live in.

The skills you gain in your degrees are so dynamic and transferable; it’s not until months, or maybe years later, that you realise just how far you have come and it is my hope that I can help you enhance these skills and equip you with tips, advice, and guidance in order to maximise your potential.

Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope you can find inspiration in knowing that no matter who you are, if you have that feeling of pursuing higher education, please take your first step on the ladder. Look up with excitement at those higher than you. They are testing the strength of the rung and improving its stability for you. Look down at those lower than you with hope, knowing you are strengthening the step they wish to aspire to. We are all in this together. The higher we climb, the higher our generation climbs. Don’t be afraid to join the team – you are all welcome!

Thank you for reading!

Montana Creswell (@Pretty_Clever_M) is a PhD candidate in Business Management. This story was published on January 15, 2019, on Montana’s blog, Pretty Clever Montana (available here) and has been republished here with her permission.

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Published on: May 10, 2019

PhD candidate in Business Management
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