From First Chances to First-Class Honours for Kate

Monday 10 June 2024

A Kirkcaldy school pupil who said she wouldn’t have considered university had it not been for St Andrews’ introducing her to the ‘First Chances’ widening access programme, celebrated graduating with a First Class degree in Neuroscience from the UK’s top University today (Monday).

Kate Matheson, who attended St Andrews RC High School, said she was so inspired by the stories of students from state schools in Fife who had studied at the University of St Andrews that she decided to go for it and apply to study neuroscience.

Kate (21) said: “I honestly don’t think I would have gone to university if I wasn’t on the First Chances Fife programme; I wasn’t overly interested in academic subjects at school, but I was so inspired by the stories of students at St Andrews that had also come from state schools across Fife and the really fun traditions that St Andrews has like the May Dip and the foam fight on Raisin Monday. I decided to apply for neuroscience because I think the brain is so fascinating and there’s so much that is still unknown. I loved how flexible the neuroscience course was at St Andrews, which has allowed me to learn about everything from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to how animals learn in social situations.”

Kate added: “I was quite nervous to come to St Andrews because I didn’t think that I’d fit in or be smart enough, but I have met some of the most amazing and inspirational people here and wouldn’t change my decision. One of my highlights has been being a student ambassador, which has involved working on the widening access summer schools and events run by the University’s Admissions team. It has been so rewarding watching pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds change their perception about university and St Andrews in particular! I’ve also loved meeting other ambassadors who share this passion for widening access and I was so grateful to be promoted to Principal Ambassador this year – again something I never thought would be possible!

“For those thinking about coming to St Andrews from state schools in Fife, but perhaps think that it ‘isn’t for people like them’ or that they’re not smart enough, I would encourage them to believe in themselves! If you have a passion for a particular subject and are open-minded then you are absolutely meant to be here – there are so many opportunities that I’ve received here that I wouldn’t have anywhere else.”

Looking to what comes next, Kate said: “I am thinking about pursuing a Masters degree in clinical neurology. I’m really interested in working with patients and doctors to improve the lives of those with neurological conditions and would love to incorporate some kind of outreach with school-aged pupils within that.”

Kate is pictured with parents Iain and Allison in St Salvator’s Quad following her graduation ceremony in St Andrews’ Younger Hall.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office

Category University news

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