Clever Girls pp 291-297 | Cite as

A Letter to My Younger Self

  • Claire Mitchell


This chapter uses a letter format to highlight experiences of growing up as a working-class ‘clever girl’ struggling through poverty to achieve ‘success’ and ‘security’ within/through higher education. Growing access to higher education has been promoted as a means of reducing class inequalities through improving social mobility. I describe a contrasting reality in which inequities are exacerbated by scarcity of money and time, and in which what Skeggs refers to as ‘techniques of selfhood’ take their toll. Moving between past and the present, I compare childhood memories of my mother’s time in education with my own experience at university. I connect personal experiences with sociological issues in order to challenge discourses of upward social mobility. Illuminating what achieving ‘success’ looks like in practice, the letter raises a question about the promises of higher education as a route to security for those from poorer backgrounds: ‘Is it all worth it?’


Shame Cultural capital Precarity Struggle Debt 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claire Mitchell
    • 1
  1. 1.GlasgowUK

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