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Stories from parents and carers

Get stories and tips on the university process from parents who've been there and done that. Our students also describe their own journey to university and beyond. 

Michelle Koulen: A Mother's Story

Michelle Koulen’s daughter, Brielle, is studying Applied Community Sports at UEL, where she is also a Sports Scholar. Brielle lives in UEL’s on-campus accommodation. This is Michelle’s story.

Applying to university

“I had a fair amount of knowledge as to what university was like from external sources and in regards to my child’s application process, a family friend had walked her through the whole process as she had a child currently in university,” says Michelle.

UEL has a secure campus and convenient location

“Before my daughter started university, security was one of my main concerns and I am now very confident and feel reassured with my daughter staying on campus as the security at UEL is 24/7.

The best things about UEL are how diverse the campus is and the location. Everything is right on the students' doorstep, such as local amenities and transport. I do believe my child is safe here at UEL.”

Financial support

“I was also concerned with the money and employability aspects as we come from a low-income household.

My daughter now currently has a part-time job at the university and does not rely on us for financial support.”

Michelle's tips for parents

  • Visit the campus

    “My tip would be for parents to visit Open Days with your child or children. The UEL Open Day I went to with Brielle was extremely busy but very well organised by the staff and Student Ambassadors. The campus is very beautiful. We were made to feel welcome and our needs were catered to. The taster sessions were good for my child and I – it was fun and interactive. The UEL Open Day was overall a great experience – there was good music, good food and a lot of information at hand for any queries that I had.”

  • Talk to ambassadors

    “Interact with the current students who work as Student Ambassadors at the Open Day. Ask them questions, as they will already have experienced university life and will be able to set potential student’s minds at ease.”

  • Get organised

    “Another tip would be to not have your child bring their whole bedroom to university! They’re likely to buy things once they’re at university and when they move out of halls they are will have accumulated a lot more than when they first moved in.”


“For some students who are also parents, it is difficult to get them to share responsibilities with other parent or students. It is more of a white middle class thing. If you are from an African or Asian family it means keeping your problems to yourself. Asking for help is not what you generally do. “Even if you have started work or studying, you wouldn’t find it easy to say “Could you pick my kid up and look after them so I can attend this workshop or lecture, and then I can look after your child so you can go to the next one?’”
Femi Bola , MBE, UEL Director of Employability
CASS School external

UEL is a hugely popular place for mature students, who make up over 60 per cent of those studying with us. More than 20 per cent of our students are over the age of 35, and many of these learners are parents.

Perhaps you left school early and have always wondered how far you could have gone had you stayed. Or maybe you have had children and they are now at the age where you can think of spending more hours on developing your career. You may be approaching retirement age, and want to study something that has always fascinated you.

At UEL we have a hugely experienced Information, Advice and Guidance team who can help you in your return to education. We offer advice for those wanting to get back into education after a gap. We offer face-to-face meetings – just drop into our office at the Stratford campus – or telephone for advice.

We also run a hugely popular New Beginnings course which can help you get back into education quickly. Read about how the New Beginnings course transformed the lives of some of our current mature students – UEL employee Peter Brown, single mum Rae Spencer, and mother and daughter Kathy and Natasha Hamilton.

“Often we see parents when they have just got their childcare sorted out and they have time to return to education. They are thinking ‘now is the time’. Many of them haven’t been in education for a while, or maybe haven’t done very well. Maybe they have had a baby young, and are only able to consider further education this point. The people we see are full of optimism. They are thinking ‘I can now rebuild a different sort of life for myself.’

“We encourage them to come, to manage the whole deal. A lot of the people that come to see us keep popping back to have a chat and to talk over any issues that have come up for them. We are friendly faces and we will always help with whatever we can.”
Gillian Woolley , Pre-entry Information, Advice and Guidance manager
Knowledge Dock

Top tips

Kathy and Natasha's interview

Kathy and Natasha are a mother and daughter both currently studying toward an undergraduate degree at UEL.

How much did you know about university before application?

Kathy: I knew very little about university apart from information gleaned when making my own enquiries and the stereotypical discourse. I was very involved in the initial stage of my daughter’s application, having conducted the investigations and directed her to the information and guidance service.

Natasha: I knew very little – just the basics – about university and the course I wanted to study. I read the website for information.

What were you most concerned about while your child was applying for universities and how has it worked out?

Kathy: I had some concern regarding employability. This is no longer a concern since Natasha has gained in-depth knowledge and confidence in her field. She is capable of researching, CV writing, presenting and other necessary skills to gain employment.

Natasha: My main concern before starting university was the workload and whether I would be able to complete the tasks as required. I was also concerned about whether I would obtain the skills to find a suitable job after leaving university as well as the debt I would have to pay back after completing university. It has worked out as my course is very practical in nature – I have gained knowledge and insight from my lecturers and students in higher years.

What are the best things about UEL as far as you are concerned?

Kathy: The best things about UEL are its impressive lecture theatres and vast array of study resources. There is constant striving for improvement and awareness on what is offered to students to aid their success. For example, the Skillzone, Centre for Student Success and the Disability and Wellbeing teams – all offer support and advice. Other highlights include the library and classrooms as well as UEL’s scenic situation alongside the river and the location for easy commuting. I feel that my daughter is completely safe at UEL.

Natasha: I love the diversity and versatility of the university and I feel 100 per cent safe on campus because there is so much visible security. I feel supported at UEL as I know that I can receive help and guidance very easily and be on the way to gaining work experience from my course.

What tips would you have for other parents with children preparing to go to university?

Kathy: My tips for parents with children preparing for university would be to research well and investigate all queries you may have. Empower your children to make sound decisions on interactions that will impact their lives.

My tip to future students would be to prepare to work hard and prioritise your workload. Participate where you can in activities to build up your association with people which could help you later on in your course of study.

Did you go to a UEL Open Day? If so, what where your impressions? What tips would you have for others?

Kathy: I did visit UEL on an Open Day and was impressed with the expanse of the campus and the diversity of the students. The university appeared clean and modern. The library was very impressive with its vast range of books and journals as well as the amount of computers available for 24-hour use. Finally, the taster session was very enjoyable and combined with everything else, sealed my decision in favour of UEL.

Natasha: No, I did not attend a campus tour or open day prior to starting university. My top tips to students considering attending an open day would be to come with an open mind and conduct some background research into your chosen subject.

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