Everything you need to know about LEAPS, the programme helping Scotland’s young people get into uni

You may not have heard of it, but it’s helped a lot of us

LEAPS (Lothian Equal Access Programme for Schools) is a programme which aims to promote higher education to Scotland’s young people from schools, areas, family situations and financial backgrounds that may exclude university as a path to their future.

I applied to the University of Edinburgh with a lot of help from LEAPS. From the beginning I was given tips and guidance on what to include in my personal statement, I attended workshops that focused especially on audition and interview performance, and even sent away a pre-application enquiry form that told me what offer my chosen University was likely to be.

I feel that LEAPS played a massive part in my entry to uni, and I think that their services gave me a realistic glimpse of the effort and motivation needed to make uni work. However, not many people have even heard of it, despite it helping thousands of Scottish youngsters get into uni.

The author, a proud LEAPS student at the University of Edinburgh

Set up in 1996, LEAPS works with 59 secondary schools across the regions of Edinburgh, West Lothian, Midlothian, East Lothian, the Scottish Borders, Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and Stirling.

The programme helps in lots of different ways, including conducting one to one interviews, holding personal statement workshops, working with student volunteers to give talks about uni life, and even hosting summer schools for LEAPS applicants.

It works with Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh Napier and the University of Edinburgh, and according to their 2015 annual report, 669 LEAPS students went on to study at Edinburgh universities – that’s roughly 56 per cent of LEAPS university applicants at an Edinburgh institution.

Jacqueline, University of Edinburgh

With so many students getting into university with help from LEAPS, I spoke to some others to find out what uni life is like for them.

The students thought that, while the programme was not responsible for them getting into uni, the tips and talks given to them helped considerably with their applications. Many students attended talks and visits from the programme, with the other third attending further workshops before and during application.

While everyone said there was a noticeable change in the work level between their last year at school and first year of uni, they all agreed that this change was manageable.

Molly, a LEAPS Student at the University of Edinburgh

Around a third of the students still found it difficult to fit in at first at uni, but eventually got on with their more privileged peers, compared to a healthy two thirds who said they got on with everyone immediately.

Interestingly, all of the students live at home and commute into uni every day. Many students said their living arrangements limited them, whereas some claimed that living at home actually benefited them when it came to being socially included. Thankfully, none of the students thought their financial situations prevented them from participating in social events.

There’s no stereotype of LEAPS students, they’re from a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstances, but all have been helped by the programme. More people should be aware of the success it has had in helping so many of Scotland’s young people to get into university.

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