Melissa is taking her own route to success

GCSEs, A Levels and then university was the only route to success - I had been told growing up.

It was a clear linear path. All I had to do was pass my exams and keep moving along a path that everybody had convinced me was the only way to get to where I wanted to be.

I had it so deeply ingrained in my head that I should only be looking for degreecourses and ‘top ten universities’ that I didn’t even bother looking up all the other opportunities that were available to me.

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Mathematics with Finance was my course choice. Go-getter that I am, I aimed for all of the top universities. I was convinced that I was going to get into one of them and continue my pursuit of post-school studies in the only way that had been made known to me.

Until I started reading about school leaver programmes...

It started off as curiosity, but this curiosity blossomed into a fascination as I realised I could earn a salary and get an internationally-recognised qualification at the same time.

The ACA isn’t something that you just have to stick on your CV and hope for the best. The ACA opens up a world of opportunities, quite literally - a world of many different industries and countries.

The usual journey to the ACA is to complete your A Levels at 18, finish your degree at 21 then study for this prestigious qualification for another three years. But following the school leaver route, I will be a qualified accountant at 22!

It doesn’t come easy though. I learnt a long time ago that nothing worthwhile is easy. However, the long hours spent studying is made easier by the fact that BDO, the accountancy firm I now work for, offers all trainees study leave for every exam. The time spent travelling to clients is offset by the fact that I am never in the same place for too long.

I’m always asked what the hardest part of being a school leaver is and my response is always the same: the jump from being a dependent sixth former to being a responsible adult in the workplace. It’s a difficult adjustment to make.

“Gone are the days of lie ins and six week summers but in their place comes the prospect of a bright and promising future.”

My future is set as long as I keep putting in the work. For a few more years, I know that I will be developing skills and working towards a qualification that will open up so many doors for me. And when I look at it like that, I realise that starting work as a school leaver was a smart investment.

“I won’t have a ‘university experience’ but I will have practical work experience - which is invaluable to your early career – and the social ‘we’re in this together’ experience I was able to enjoy with all my trainee peers.”

By Melissa Dube, an apprentice with accountancy firm, BDO . Melissa is following their school leaver programme.