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Lauren Pearce – Bachelor of Arts (majoring in English and History)

Lauren Pearce

It was a close shave with a life-threatening illness in high school that prompted Lauren Pearce to devote her life to doing what she loves – writing. Applying to the University of Sydney through the E12 scheme, the already-accomplished author enclosed a short story she’d written with her admission application, to demonstrate to the judges what she was capable of. The approach paid off, and she’s now studying English and history at the University of Sydney and finding it "better than I possibly could’ve imagined".

"I got very ill in Year 9, and it was after that that I started writing seriously. Eventually I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that can cause severe fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, depression and even death.

Once I’d been diagnosed and started receiving treatment, I realised that I’d really dodged a bullet – it could’ve been much worse. It was a real wake-up call for me. I realised that any one of us might not have a particularly long life, so we should spend it doing what we love. And writing is something I really love.

I’d always considered going on to uni – my mum and dad had always encouraged me to – but I hadn’t been sure what I wanted to do until then. Also I hadn’t really been considering Sydney Uni, because I live in the Western suburbs so the distance and the travel costs would’ve made it difficult.

The E12 scholarship has really helped with those challenges – without that it would’ve been hard to find the money. And the Access card has been great. It gives you discounts on everything – stationery, food – it all just makes things a whole lot easier. I had three part-time jobs when I was at high school, and I can tell you it’s much easier to study when you don’t also have to worry about working!

Although I ended up getting a high enough ATAR anyway, I think the way the E12 scheme looks beyond just that is a brilliant system. When you’re at school and you’re trying to understand the whole ATAR system, it’s like you need to get this particular mark on that assessment in order to get this ATAR in order to get into that course... But life doesn’t work like that! Horrible things tend to happen at the worst possible time, and people who’ve done well overall don’t do well on a particular assessment, or vice versa. I think it’s important to look at the reasons someone wants to go to uni, and their capacity to do well there.

When I applied for the E12 scheme I sent in as one of my supporting documents a short story that I’d written [which was later shortlisted for the 2012 John Marsden Prize for young writers]. I said, ‘I want to be a writer, and this is to demonstrate what I could do with that degree.’

Now that I’m here, I think Sydney Uni is fantastic – better than I possibly could’ve imagined. It makes the two-and-a-half hours of travelling a day worthwhile, because it means I get to come here!"