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5 February 2021

Access to HE changed my life! From 12 years in the military to studying Medicine at university

Luke Tomlinson
Current Access to HE student at Truro College

After 12 years in the military I decided to change course and become a doctor. Having completed Access to Medicine at Truro College, I am delighted to have been offered a place at Exeter University to study Medicine.

After school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so took odd jobs in bars and customer service before joining the Armed Forces. The military was great and led to a wide range of experiences in a real mixture of roles, as a Commando and Naval Submariner Officer.

Although I did take A-levels, I didn’t take any science subjects, limiting my options for entering medicine in later life. At that time, and for a while in the military, I didn’t think that medicine played to my skillset, but certain tasks during my military career made me rethink my strengths and priorities and I started considering medicine as an option.

Leaving the military seemed like a huge risk - I was established there and I had no idea what the future with medicine would hold, if anything. But having explored the realities of life as a doctor through voluntary roles and work experience - it felt like the right move, so I went for it.

I found out about Access while browsing Exeter University’s website. I knew I wanted to try and stay in the South West, and Exeter University was an obvious first choice – not only is it close to home, but it’s a great university, particularly for medicine; the style of learning and early clinical experience suiting my strengths.

I got in contact with Truro College who were really helpful in advising me on the course and next steps. After an interview at the College and an offer to study Access to Medicine, I handed in my notice to the military.

I was very impressed by the quality of the Access teaching and I got the sense that the teachers really cared about the success of their students. The course was similar to Access to Applied Science, but with a focus on the medical application of science. The syllabus was really well thought-out and was structed to be progressive and logical.


The course runs from September through to May, and is three full days per week. It is quite full-on, but manageable, with help available if required.

I submitted my application to study Medicine at Exeter University, and following interview have just received an offer! I couldn’t be happier, as Exeter was my first choice and I felt like even getting an interview was an achievement. I would like to specialize in emergency medicine eventually, and in particular Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine as I am attracted to the responsibility, intensity and am in awe of the incredible work Health Care teams do in this area.

The Access to HE Diploma has changed my life and has opened doors to a whole new world of employment opportunities. It goes to show that there are options for change out there, and that taking the risk really can pay off. I’d definitely recommend the Diploma to adults looking for a career change or for something new in life – it has certainly transformed mine for the better.