By Ashley Carrick, BSc (Hons) Psychology graduate 2013.
I am not going to bore you with the importance of starting your work and dissertation early or choosing a subject of personal interest in your final year (as with most students I know, this is probably something you will understand better when you finish your degree). I am however going to discuss my personal research in relation to you as a student or young person and the power you have over your own opportunities.
I have recently graduated from the university with a degree in psychology. To gain this qualification I had to produce my own research. I chose to look at the relationship between peer attachment, place attachment and identity in young people living in a deprived area. I realise that due to changes in university applications and the current economic climate, this is an area relevant to many students.
Something I learned when leaving high school is that you are the only person with control over your ability to succeed. I was once told I wouldn’t achieve the grades to go to college never mind be in a position to consider a masters. I believe my ability to overcome the doubters was, in part, due to my personal identity. As detrimental to my education as that statement could have been, I chose to use it as inspiration. I made it my personal goal to disprove the statement. Alongside of this, the knowledge I gained in psychology allowed me to see that not everyone would be able to look past the negative side of such a statement: this was something I wanted to address.
I grew up in a deprived area where it is often more important to have some income than none at all. The majority of work is provided by factories and casual work. My parents will admit that it is due to this that I am the first member of my family to attend university. Research, including my own, has found that living in a deprived area can have an effect on personal identity. Systems once put in place to help young people find work are now outdated and only sufficient to help maintain low level employment. These systems can prevent progression to higher levels.
Constant knocks and set backs in your pursuit to gain employment or further education will inevitably affect personal views of identity. Place identity is an important factor in the development of personal identity. We develop our personal identities based on the similarities and differences we see between ourselves and others. For example high achievers living in deprived areas are less likely to attend the best colleges and universities, this is said to be, in part, due to a personal feeling that they would not fit in. In young people it has even been found that social interactions are affected by the type of home you live in (private/council).
I believe that self belief, motivation and a positive sense of identity are key to opening up opportunities, even in a country where deprivation is on the increase and opportunities seem fewer. A change is needed and you as students are able to make that change. University is hard work but if you are willing to give it your all, and believe you can do it, (you can, you got here), the opportunities and rewards your degree can offer will be immeasurable.