“Hope gave me a chance when nobody else would,” said Mollie Baker as she began talking about her time with us. “I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped in my exams and ended up doing a BTEC qualification instead of A-levels.”
The reasons for what she called her ‘underachievement’ soon became clear though. As Mollie’s dad fought alcohol and drug addiction problems, her priority was supporting her family back home in Essex. “My education was left behind,” she said. “With everything else that was going on, I just couldn’t devote enough time to it.”
So what changed to make her decide to study full-time? “I’d had enough. Everything was passing me by and I felt I had to do something. I couldn’t believe it when Hope offered me a place. I thought ‘Wow, someone actually believes in me’.
Moving to Liverpool was a huge step for Mollie, but it allowed her to focus 100% on her studies. “It was pretty hard going at first,” she said. "Everything was completely new, but I have to say that I loved it. Being able to immerse myself in my studies was amazing. I’d never been able to do that before. I think I spent all of my first year in the library!”
Mollie told us how she had to learn to study during that first year – and write essays and papers to the academic standard expected of her. “The support I received from my tutors was incredible,” she explained. “They went above and beyond, spending so much time with me. I remember my first assignment was rubbish! My tutor went through it all step-by-step though, so I quickly learned what I needed to do to get it right.
“Right up to my dissertation, that support was always there. No door was ever closed. No email was ever unanswered. As a student, you feel that you are your lecturers’ number one priority. That’s amazing really and something I will never forget.”
Mollie clearly warmed to academic life, so much so that she was named ‘Best Performing Student’ at her graduation. It’s easy to see why. As she talked, it become clear that she’s something of a perfectionist. “I think you can always get better at what you do,” she said. “You’ve just got to push yourself that bit harder and do that bit more.”
It’s a way of thinking that led to Mollie going on to achieve her MA in Education at Hope. As we spoke, she had recently been offered a prestigious £10,000 Newton College Scholarship and a place at Cambridge University to study for an MPhil in Education Research.
That’s quite something for someone who failed all her AS Levels. “Hard to believe isn’t it?” she said. “I still have to pinch myself sometimes. My tutors at Hope did a lot to build my confidence. They really pushed me in my final year and made me believe that I belong at a place like Cambridge. They also helped me put my application together, going through my proposals and statement with me to make sure it couldn’t be any better.
“I’m going to continue the research work I did for my MA, looking at how the relationships between academics and students is changing. I’ll be exploring how the role of universities is shifting, and how these relationships can influence the depth of a student’s learning experience. It’s quite a high-profile research area at the moment, so it’ll be exciting to be working at the forefront of it.”
Wherever Mollie’s career takes her in future, on thing’s for sure: she won’t be losing touch with the Hope community. “I’ll never do that,” she said. “The university and that wonderful network of support will always be part of me. I don’t want to sound dramatic but the people there changed my life. I just can’t imagine me without Hope.”