When she left school in Year 11 in 2004, Eloise Meyer didn't even consider a university education.
"I didn't think I was smart enough to go to university, so it wasn't even on my radar," Eloise says.
"I just wanted to leave school."
Instead, she got a chef's apprenticeship and worked in the hospitality industry for the next 14 years.
But in 2018, she realised she wanted to take a different path.
Then COVID hit, and her work as a chef was intermittent at best as lockdowns severely impacted the industry.
"I was doing personal chef work, going into people's houses, and then when COVID hit, I wasn't allowed to do that anymore," she says.
Eloise applied directly to the University of Wollongong for entry into an undergraduate degree in psychology. Still, she found that more than her Certificate III was needed to meet the eligibility criteria.
"It was suggested I do a pathway course, and at the time, I had no idea that there were pathways or that UOW College existed," she said.
"I had just turned 30 and thought I was more capable than I give myself credit for. I decided if I failed, then at least I know I tried, and I would never have to say, 'what if?'" she said.
And when she walked into the College on that first day, Eloise said she felt she had made the right decision.
"I found that it wasn't just all high school students. There was a huge range of students. There were people in their 30s, 40s and 50s and just out of school. I didn't feel out of place, which is what I was expecting," she said.
And much to her surprise, Eloise says she found she was more than capable, achieving a Distinction average throughout the pathway course.
"Maths and statistics were the hardest things for me, but I even did well in that," she says.
"I asked for a lot of help with those subjects, but that was always available."
Eloise has almost completed her Bachelor of Psychological Science at UOW and says the time she spent at UOW College was instrumental in her success.
"My undergraduate degree has a lot of statistics, but I had a great foundation from learning at the College, so I felt I had a better starting point than the students coming into the degree straight from high school.
"I was that kid in school that would nod their head when asked if we understood, and had no idea of what to do, but the College taught me never to be afraid to ask questions, especially when you're learning because there is no such thing as a stupid question and chances are others are wanting to ask the same thing."
Eloise says if she had met the direct entry requirements to enrol at UOW when she first applied, she probably would not be in the position she is now and doing as well in her undergraduate degree.
"I would have drowned in it all and maybe even withdrawn and put it into the too-hard basket," she says.
"I look back now and think to myself that I am more intelligent and capable than I ever thought, and when you do look back and think about it, it is kind of mind-blowing – 16-year-old Eloise wouldn't have achieved what I have achieved or even thought that it was possible."
Not only is Eloise nearly finished her degree, but she now also works as the student recruitment and marketing coordinator for the College. During her degree she was awarded two scholarships in the psychology field to attend conferences and seminars overseas. Eloise also recently completed a research internship in psychology, which has made her realise that she would like to pursue a career in research.
"I was always interested in forensic psychology and the criminal mind, which led me down this pathway in the first place, but I never thought I would be capable of doing anything like this," she says.
"I have three young boys as well, and they have had their different setbacks, and now I am more interested in looking at the psychology of why they are the way they are and how I can help them and other children who are not neurotypical.
"The most important thing I think I have learned over the past few years is that if you want to do something, you can – you can achieve much more than you think is possible; it's just sometimes, to do this, you need to step out of your comfort zone".
"And I think it has also been a lesson for my kids. It has taught them that if you work hard, amazing things can happen."