These comments from the Stage Three prize draw winners illustrate the diversity of the Futuretrack population, for example:
'I found my experience of higher education a very positive one. It was great being part of an environment which values studying and having the opportunity to research subjects in depth. Academic studies aside, I formed some brilliant friendships and found living in a student house in both second and third year to be a particularly fun and enjoyable aspect of my university experience. At the university there is a great emphasis on exploring interests outside of studying. With a vast array of societies, students have the chance to try out new things which they might not get the opportunity to once they enter the working world. Whilst at university I spent some of my spare time carrying out graphic design work for various societies and organisations.
'I begin studying for an MA in Art and Design later this month and hope to use my prize money from Futuretrack to purchase some new graphics software.'
(Politics, Philosophy and Economics graduate)
'My final project is to design a product for training medical students to do abdominal examinations, and although it is an area I had not previously considered going into, if this project goes well (which I hope it will!) then I think it could be a direction for my career beyond this. My short term plan for after I graduate is to travel and experience different cultures, since I think that is very important for my career. Maybe it will even give me inspiration for my design which will make me millions! I have also loved getting involved in lots of things like our union events and running a committee, through which I have found lots of great friends. As far as I am concerned that is the key to a successful time as a student, I don't want to give it up!
'I am going to buy a not very exciting but useful A3 printer for printing my presentation material, and maybe a couple of pairs of shoes with my prize money.'
(Product Design Engineering final year student)
'Higher education has both its good and bad points. The good points include increased job prospects, studying for a degree in a subject that you like, meeting new people from different backgrounds, living in a new city/town and living the student lifestyle such as joining clubs and societies and the student discount in shops. The bad points include living on a budget, the tuition fees and maybe not liking the course, the university or the city that you choose to live in.
'My plans for the future include returning to university next year to study Business Management, graduate and work in Human Resources. I spent my prize money on clothes, shoes and handbags and I put half of my money to save up for my return to university.'
'Looking back on my university experience, and considering the role of higher education in our society, I definitely have mixed feelings and attitudes. I had a great time at university; I met some great, inspiring people (students and tutors), and I loved working in an academic subject that I'm passionate about and enjoy. On the other hand, the way in which universities appear to operate more like businesses - partly as a consequence of tuition fees - creates more awareness of 'value for money', and higher levels of student dissatisfaction. In my university, these feelings were sometimes exacerbated by a sense of detachment and distance from a research-intensive staff body. I'd say the best thing I did for myself whilst at university was to be active in student societies, working, and finding opportunities throughout my studies to add to my experience and creative skills. I had a lot of fun and would definitely recommend making the best of your time at university through self-motivation and doing as much as you can. I really believe in the importance of education but I'm not sure that the current policy of pushing more students through higher education, with proportionally fewer jobs at the end, is sustainable. I have no regrets and generally feel very positive about my university experience, but I do have some feelings of anger about unemployment amongst both unskilled and skilled young people.
'I'm looking forward to spending some of my £500 on theatre tickets and a boozy night out as a break from the dreaded grind of job applications!'
(Drama and English graduate)
'I studied psychology for my undergraduate degree simply because I had been good at the subject at A level and knew it was something I enjoyed. Whilst a university education was what I wanted more than anything nothing had prepared me for what life at university was actually going to be like.
'Whilst studying psychology I discovered that there was actually a fair amount of the course that I wasn't really that interested or excited by. Whilst I did enjoy the course on the whole, it was clear to me by the third year that there were areas of the subject that I just didn't get on with and so when I was able to choose my courses I focused mainly on the neurological and clinical areas as opposed to social and developmental.
'Just to mix my timetable up a bit that year (and avoid any psychology I really didn't want to do) I elected to take two media units in film studies which I thoroughly enjoyed and seemed to be alright at. My enjoyment was helped also by the small class sizes we had for the seminars in Media, something that was lacking in the psychology department with classes ranging from 70 to 180 students!
'My education has always been the main reason for me to go to university, and although I have learnt so much from the exceptional education at my institution, I have also had so many experiences outside of this that I could not have had if I'd stayed home. By visiting the homes of friends I made whilst studying I broadened my horizons. In the past three years I have learnt how to be me. I did not have a further education by coming to university, I had a re-education.
'I am still unsure of my exact direction in the future, however staying on to do a PhD is a strong possibility. The past three years have been the best of my life.
'The prize money is contributing to my much needed 'living expenses fund' now that I'm doing a Masters and cannot get a student loan.'