See Alicia’s story below and the beginning of her journey at Bristol Veterinary School
My name is Alicia Guarnieri and I have a place to study Veterinary Science at the University of Bristol. I have been working towards studying veterinary medicine for a long time, but even after achieving a place it still seemed out of my reach purely due to the financial implications.
I narrowly missed out on the three A grades required to get into vet school. Like many people in my position, the only option at the time was to undertake an undergraduate degree and apply to the course as a graduate. Student Finance does not fund the tuition for second degrees, despite vets being on the occupational shortage list. At this stage, I wasn’t fully aware of just how little funding was out there by taking the graduate route into vet school, but it was either this way or no way at all. After completing my degree I undertook various placements; lambing, dairy farming, emergency veterinary hospitals, canine hydrotherapy, and kennels – and I began applying to vet schools. I wasn’t successful on my first round of applications so I took on more placements and was offered an unconditional place at the University of Bristol when I reapplied. It was amazing to finally getting in but it was quite a bittersweet moment as the reality of financing such a degree began to set in. With the fees standing at £9,250 per year it just wasn’t feasible for me to earn the full amount required for the five year course and it was looking increasingly likely that I would have to reject my place at vet school. During my undergraduate degree I worked two jobs and managed to save £5,000 to put towards tuition. I worked nights at a supermarket and another retail job during the days.
I had to stop working nights as it really began to interfere with my studies, I feared I wouldn’t achieve the 2:1 I needed. I required some time off from my other job to revise for my final exams, which was denied, so unfortunately I had to leave that one too. I was still paying for the usual outgoings of rent and bills so the money I had saved didn’t last very long at all. I managed to find a job that worked around my remaining placements and I was then offered a place at vet school in March 2020. It was a relief knowing that I had got in and could now fully focus on earning more money to pay the fees. Then at the end of March 2020 we went into lockdown due to Covid-19 and I lost my job.
It is not possible for my family to help me fund my veterinary degree so I looked at every option available to me and exhausted them. I convinced my library to buy a copy of the Guide to Educational Grants, only to find that most of the grants excluded second degree courses; the two charities that didn’t exclude them only funded students in their final year of study. I contacted numerous other charities, individuals and companies but had no luck there either.
By chance I came across Quadstar Foundation and saw that they were helping to fund another vet student, Amber, who was in the exact same position as me. I contacted them. I didn’t hold out much hope so was very surprised when Quadstar agreed to support me. Quadstar has gone above and beyond to help in other ways too, such as providing a laptop and even contacts for lambing placements. What makes Quadstar stand out is that they don’t want anyone they support to just struggle along – they want you to flourish and be able to reach your full potential. It is hard to put into words how grateful I am to Quadstar as they quite frankly threw me a life line. If it wasn’t for their generosity then I would have rejected my place by now but instead I am in Bristol preparing for vet school, it’s still very surreal!