An honours degree and me: The unexpected decision

La Trobe student, Claire Kearns, speaks about her journey and the difficulties she faced from others regarding her decision to become an honours student.

When I decided to enrol at La Trobe University for the 2015 year, almost four years later I never expected to be an honours year student. When I enrolled I was told by several well-meaning people that tertiary education was beyond me. One particularly springs to mind: the then acquaintance who told me that if I failed I would fall into a heap that I would not be able to get back up from. I am exceedingly glad I did not listen. That was the first major choice that lead me to be an honours student.

The second, and arguably, greater choice was who was going to be my supervisor in my honours year. The sixth academic I approached, thankfully, agreed. Debatably, it was not so much my choice at that point. Due to several factors such as ill health of staff and an exceedingly delayed enrolment process, the “choice” had arrived at a desperation stage and I was just happy to have a supervisor. In a way, my supervisor chose me.

I am not the easiest student to ever pass through the honours system. I cannot do a lot of things. At times I require extra support and encouragement; something a supervisor gets no financial or other reward for. It is probably easier for staff to say they are busy or walk away than to tow me along on an education adventure. My supervisor, very fortunately for myself, understands disability and long term medical conditions. They’ve adjusted to my requirements and made it sound like no trouble at all (I am certain that it is).

If you, like me, are considering doing an honours year; or have the grades where that may be a possibility and you have a long-term health condition or other mitigating factors, my suggestion would be to plan early, start asking staff and find an academic that is understanding of your situation.

Claire Kearns is an Honours student studying history at La Trobe University. Interested readers can find her on Instagram at ballerinapiratesmile