I was pregnant at 15 – but with your help, I’ve turned it around

After falling pregnant at 15, Rachel felt like her dreams of going to university and becoming a doctor were lost. But thanks to her determination and support from a Nottingham Potential scholarship, she’s been able to say yes to her place at Nottingham, not just once, but twice. This is her story.

Rachael Wiffen banner
Rachel Wiffen 

I looked down at the pregnancy test and I couldn’t believe it. It was positive. As a 15-year-old teenager who hadn’t even taken her GCSEs yet, I knew that my life was about to change and I was scared.

Before I got pregnant, I had my life planned out. I’ve always been a high achiever and I wanted to be a doctor, but my hopes for the future felt like they were fading away. When my son Callum was born, we didn’t have much support and due to difficulties at home we were placed in foster care together. By the time I was 16, I’d had my daughter Lilly, and all three of us had moved into a mother and baby hostel. I was able to rent a council house a year later, which gave us some much-needed stability.

 By the time I was 16, all three of us had moved into a mother and baby hostel.

It wasn’t easy being a mother at a young age. You’re stigmatised for having a child in a pram and people judge you. But I never lost hope. I felt it was extremely important to carry on with my education, even more so because of my children, and I was determined that my circumstances would not hold me back.

I worked day and night to finish my GCSEs and put everything I had into my A Levels, studying into the early hours while my children were asleep. I got AAB grades in my A Levels and I couldn’t believe it when I was accepted to study for an integrated MSci in Biochemistry at the University of Nottingham. My dream of a university education was almost within my grasp. But there was one problem. I had no money. 

Words can’t describe how relieved I was when I opened the letter telling me that I had been awarded a Nottingham Potential scholarship. I am so grateful that there are people out there who recognise that I deserve an education and wanted to give me a chance. You can’t study science without a computer these days, so I bought a much-needed laptop with my scholarship.

I’ll never forget my first day at university. I packed my bag and made my way onto campus for my very first lecture. I loved it from the start but I realised that trying to do a degree whilst bringing up two children and having no support was going to be a challenge. I never lost sight of my dream though and continued to study hard, balancing motherhood with my education.

After four years of extremely hard work, I graduated with First Class Honours and several academic prizes, including the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences undergraduate academic excellence award and the Biochemistry MSci course prize. My perseverance had paid off! It was such a wonderful feeling to know that my potential had been recognised!


Going to university opened up a world of possibilities to me and I now had the foundation I needed to do medicine. I applied to study Graduate Entry Medicine at Nottingham and was ecstatic when I was accepted! But how on earth would I pay for the first year? I had a fantastic degree, but I had no money and even Student Finance loans wouldn’t cover the cost. Finding out that I would be eligible for a Nottingham Potential scholarship for a second time was a huge relief. Without this financial help, I wouldn’t have been able to take up my place, which would have been truly devastating.

Thanks to you, I’m now in my second year studying to be a doctor and I’m just about to start my clinical practice. I love my course, but Covid-19 has taken its toll on everyone, including me. Sadly, my Mum died of cancer during the pandemic. She was always very supportive and I miss her. Somehow, I found the courage to carry on and I am determined to be the best doctor I can possibly be.

They say if you educate a mother, you educate a family. I am proof of that, but I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you so much for believing in me. You have helped me to excel and achieve my full potential and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity you have given me.

Thanks to donations towards scholarships, bright students like Rachel have the support they need to reach their potential. Thank you.

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