Molly Pirihira knows that 'real-life' often gets in the way of pursuing lifelong dreams.

Pirihira left school 25 years ago, to work in the food industry, then went on to raise five children.

Deep down she knew she wanted a career in teaching but didn't know how to take the first step to achieve her goal.

It wasn't until Pirihira's own daughter enrolled to study teaching at the University of Waikato that the mum of five decided to pursue her life-long dream.

A change in career, especially when your school days were decades ago and you never even passed University Entrance, can be a daunting prospect.

That's why the University of Waikato offers a Certificate in University Preparation (CUP) course.

CUP is specifically designed to help adult students who left school without qualifications, need additional academic preparation or who don't meet the current entry requirements.

"I want to be a high school teacher but it's been over 25 years since I've been in a school environment," Pirihira said.

"So, to be successful in achieving my goal, I wanted to complete CUP, which offered the skills I needed in preparation for my degree."

Within six months, students are ready to launch themselves into an undergraduate degree so they can take back control of their lives and future careers.

Pirihira is now studying towards a Bachelor in Business (BBus) majoring in Economics as well as a minor in Māori and Indigenous Studies.

She will then enroll in a Graduate Diploma of Teaching.

Environmental engineer, Terry Halford, used the CUP course to switch careers after many years working as a carpenter and registered master builder.

He left school without qualifications, but now has a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) from the University of Waikato.

Terry Halford credited the CUP course with his honours degree
"The CUP course prepared me for what I'd face when I started my degree – lectures, tutorials, labs, and workshops," Halford said.

"We covered skills such as researching, note-taking, and essay writing, critical thinking and what they expect from students during their study years."

Halford said enrolling for CUP was one of the best decisions he's ever made.

"I really don't know if I would have made it without the skills I learned during my course. I owe those guys everything."

Staff were encouraging and supportive throughout the course he said.

He now works for an environmental engineering consultancy in Hamilton and loves his new career.

"I like the idea of being able to design new systems to be more environmentally sound.

"A lot of our work involves putting systems into existing buildings, which can be a challenge, and my building skills often come in handy."

The CUP course is run by the Waikato Pathways College and is taught at the University of Waikato's Hamilton campus.

Students have full access to all university facilities and services so can quickly adapt to the tertiary environment before starting a degree.

Once students have completed CUP, they will be eligible for entry at all New Zealand universities and can enroll in most undergraduate degrees.

The one-trimester Certificate of University Preparation gives the skills and confidence needed to successfully tackle tertiary study and pursue a career.