Former Preston’s College student has proved it’s never too late to turn your life around and achieve your dreams. Laura McManus, who fell pregnant at 16 and failed her GCSEs, is now on her way to becoming a doctor and she says you can do it too. Growing up on a council estate, Laura McManus believed people like her couldn’t be doctors.
Her mum died when she was just three and at school she felt people looked down on her because of her upbringing. Describing herself as a ‘rebellious teenager,’ she fell pregnant at 16 and lived in a hostel with her son and her then boyfriend. But by the age of 23, Laura decided to chase her dream of helping people.
She recalls: “I knew I wanted to do something with science, as it was always my passion in school. However, medicine still felt like it wasn’t within the reach of someone like myself.
“I researched what I needed to do to get into university and I learnt about A-levels. I had never heard of them before as no one in my family had done them before. I begged Preston’s College to let me do A-levels without the GCSE requirements and after a few makeshift tests, Dr John Young, the A-level chemistry teacher, decided he would give me a shot and let me start A-levels in chemistry, maths, biology and AS geography.
“During my first year, my biology teacher, Melanie Ashcroft, asked me what I wanted to do. I jokingly said I wanted to be a doctor but that wasn’t an option. “She asked me why not, and she encouraged me to apply for medicine. Laura recalls; “She said, ‘You can, you are doing the right A-Levels to go to medical school.’ It never entered my head the subjects could lead to being a doctor. “I then got in touch Dr Karen Grant at Lancaster Medical School, based at Lancaster University, and explained my unique circumstances in the fact I didn’t have the GCSE requirements. She helped me and advised me of what I can do.
“So, during my A2 year at Preston’s College, I had to sit five GCSEs as well as the three A-levels and one AS. “I did my English and maths at Preston’s College and I sat biology, chemistry and physics as a private candidate through a local high school and taught myself the curriculum. “I got all A* at GCSE and all As with my A-levels and proceeded to be successful with my application and interviews for medical school.
“I am 100 per cent grateful for Preston’s College, as if they had not given me a shot to do my A-levels without my GCSEs, I would never have got as far as I did. Staff at Preston’s College gave me the chance to prove myself. Without them I wouldn’t have got to Medical School.”
Three years down the line, she enrolled at Lancaster University’s Medical School to study medicine and surgery. After graduating this summer, she has started her new post as junior doctor at Royal Preston Hospital, where she works on various wards and A&E, helping consultants and admitting, assessing and discharging patients. The 31-year-old, who now lives in Penwortham, says she is sharing her story as she wants to prove to people who may not have had the best start in life that they can achieve their goals. She adds: “I would like to highlight the inequalities of people from my background and hopefully inspire someone to dream big and go for it, even when you feel the world is against you and that things can’t improve.
“When I see people from my childhood, I am constantly told, ‘you must be really clever, I could never do anything like that, I’m just not clever enough.’ But it could not be further from the truth. It’s just they haven’t had the same opportunities or support and instead, they have faced multiple hardships and faced discrimination at every turn in their lives.
“They are clever enough and they are capable, if they are given the right support and the self-belief that they are able and deserving of achieving more, they can achieve what they want.”