Perhaps it is the shocking ratio of private school to public school graduates within our student body. Perhaps it is the carefully articulated accents heard all over campus. Whatever the reason may be, there is something about Trinity that causes the public to view us as “elitist” and “classist”. There is no doubt that Trinity strives for academic excellence and allows students to study to the highest standard in the company of other high-achievers, and the Trinity Access Programme exists to support that goal.
I know first-hand how discouraging it can be to fill in the CAO as a disadvantaged student
In a country with a college admissions system that is based solely on academic merit, those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are far less likely to succeed, in contrast with privately-educated students, who have access to far better resources for studying. I know first-hand how discouraging it can be to fill in the CAO as a disadvantaged student. Many of us often think, “Is there any point in applying to a university like Trinity?”
I am not from a privileged background, having grown up in Ringsend in Dublin’s inner-city. I am the first person in my immediate family to progress to third level education, and I will admit that getting here was not easy. On my journey to Trinity, I dealt with mental health issues that arose from my family life and financial problems that rendered it difficult to study when the Leaving Certificate approached. On top of that, it is very rare for anybody from my community to progress to higher education. People were often shocked when I told them I had my sights set on studying Human Health and Disease in Trinity. I felt foolish for having such aspirations, and success seemed impossible at times.
I declined my CAO offer for Biomedical Science in UCD, choosing instead to become a foundation course student in Trinity.
Despite this, success was not impossible. I declined my CAO offer for Biomedical Science in UCD, choosing instead to become a foundation course student in Trinity. I graduated from the Access Programme with a 1:1, and recently began my first year as a Human Health and Disease student.
Undoubtedly, as a TAP student, there was a myriad of barriers that I had to overcome in Trinity. Some of these were evident from Freshers’ Week. Perhaps it is the most obvious one, but my financial circumstances differed immensely from those of other students. It was apparent that most of my peers came from privileged backgrounds and had never struggled financially. I worried about work and stressed about my lack of funds for Freshers’ Week events. It is a burden I carried and will continue to carry during my time in college, and I fear that it will impact my ability to fully engage in student life. I will spend most weekends working rather than going out. Although the work-study lifestyle is not sustainable, it is something that I cannot escape. Many others do not seem to share my fears and struggles. I felt disadvantaged from the moment I realised this.
the Access Programme was more demanding than the Leaving Certificate, as the flow of assignments was constant
The Access Programme is not widely recognised across the campus. In fact, I found myself educating fellow students about the programme, some of whom initially wondered if it was “like tap dancing”. Of course, there are misconceptions surrounding the Access Programme. We face prejudiced opinions from traditional students, some of whom think it is an “easy” route into Trinity. In fact, it is anything but easy. We work as diligently as anybody else. I often found myself staying late in college to study, both during the week and on weekends. In my opinion, the Access Programme was more demanding than the Leaving Certificate, as the flow of assignments was constant.
I struggled upon finishing the Access Programme and entering Trinity as a Senior Freshman. The cultural dynamics were a shock to my system that left me feeling self-conscious about where I came from and how I spoke. I contemplated speaking differently than I usually would, out of fear of being judged for not speaking as elegantly as other students. I remained silent during our first encounter with organ donor remains, afraid to ask questions or to offer any input.
Although I am proud to be a foundation course student, I was hesitant to mention that I came into Trinity via the Access Route because of the preconceived belief that we do not deserve to be here. I feared I would be perceived as unintelligent or less capable than other students. I was anxious that I would have to work twice as hard as every other student to prove that I belong here just as much as they do.
These were misconceptions on my part. As I mentioned above, there is a stigma associated with TAP which leads to barriers that must be overcome. Despite my apprehension, I have yet to be judged on my accent. My capabilities have not been doubted.
However, I am aware of situations where other TAP students were subject to prejudice. Some have been frowned upon because of how they spoke. Some have been scornfully branded as a “TAP student”, which leads to difficulty in making friends. Although I personally have not experienced this, I am completely outraged when I hear of it. That ignorance is appalling. Yet, as unacceptable as this is, only a fraction of the population of Trinity criticise students for entering through the Access Programme.
Being a Trinity student is about working hard, having a passion for what you do, and being determined to succeed – characteristics which describe both TAP and traditional students.
The truth is, there are not many differences between Access students and other students. A large proportion of traditional students do not fit the negative stereotype of Trinity. This view is extremely outdated. I have realised that a lot of traditional Trinity students come from modest families and share our fears. The way in which a student enters Trinity does not matter. How privileged one is, who their family is and where they come from is not what being a Trinity student is about. Being a Trinity student is about working hard, having a passion for what you do, and being determined to succeed – characteristics which describe both TAP and traditional students.