3 May 2023
Not many people decide to tackle their first degree in their early 50s but for Gympie’s Rachel Astill, starting university with her then teenage daughter made all the difference.
“I thought, ‘I’m too old for this. I can’t do this’. So it took a bit of persuasion to overcome the self- doubt but I surprised myself,” said Rachel, who is about to begin a career as a qualified counsellor after many years raising a family and working in hospitality.
Rachel was 51 years old when daughter Michalie, 18 at the time, convinced her to take the first step towards a new way of life and join her daughter in enrolling in UniSC’s free Tertiary Preparation Pathway (TPP) at its Gympie campus in July 2019.
Michalie recalled, “I was trying to find my own lane when it came to what to study after school and while having an in-depth discussion with Mum about what university could provide, I asked what she really wanted to do with her life.
“She replied she wanted to help people and I said, ‘It is not too late. Do TPP with me and we can get you into a degree’.
“It was pretty much as simple as that and the next day we signed up.”
The pair upgraded their skills and qualifications through the university bridging program to gain entry to their chosen degrees, with Rachel enrolling in a Bachelor of Counselling and Michalie in Social Work.
They are now each other’s biggest fan and greatest supporter.
“Seeing the growth in Mum that has come from studying at university is incredible,” Michalie said.
“For somebody who said they would never be able to make it through a uni degree and always only had jobs that she didn’t enjoy, I am just so proud to see her doing something that empowers her.
“She’s also empowering and inspiring those who are older to know that university is an option.
“I can’t wait to watch her walk across the stage at graduation to receive her degree and see where she ends up going with her career.”
Rachel believes a university degree would have remained out of reach had TPP not been offered at the local Gympie campus.
“I’d never written an essay in my life prior to starting TPP so that was a big challenge to overcome. The program gave me a great insight into what university involved and taught me the academic skills I needed for a degree.
“It was comforting to walk into the first class and see a mixture of ages and realise that university is not just for school leavers.”
Rachel said there were moments when it all seemed too hard. “But I got through by knowing that it was something that I enjoyed and really want to do,” she said.
“Michalie was always egging me on, saying, ‘You can do this, you are almost there’. Not many mothers and daughters get to study at university together, so it has been an amazing experience for us.
“With Michalie and my husband’s support, I proved that it is never too late to get out of your comfort zone, back yourself and try something new. The biggest change has been my confidence in my abilities. I discovered that I really am capable.”
Rachel is completing her final placement this semester and is due to formally graduate later this year. “I am excited to now get out there and help people, do what I am trained to do and put these skills and knowledge into action.”
Applications are now open for mid-year entry to more than 90 undergraduate and postgraduate programs at UniSC, starting Semester 2 on 24 July. Students can also start UniSC’s free university bridging program TPP in Semester 2.