The decision to go back into education can be life changing. Whether you’re looking to change the direction of your career or just see what you’re really capable of, the experience of university as a mature student can be an enlightening one. But it can also be daunting for those who feel out of touch with academia.
You may be worried you don’t know how to write an essay. Or perhaps you’re paranoid about being the oldest kid on campus. We’re here to reassure you there’s no need to panic – good times and letters after your name are well within your grasp.
Choose a uni that will help you settle in
Unfortunately some universities are better than others at easing the transition for mature students. Before you accept an offer find out if there’s an entrants weeks designed to help students like you. Mock lectures, essay writing seminars and library orientations will boost your confidence before you start classes.
You won’t be the only one
Mature students now account for one-quarter of full-time undergraduate entrants. So if you’re worried you’ll be the token older learner everyone will whisper about behind your back, worry no more – you probably won’t even attract a second glance. Most universities will even have a mature student society, which is a great way to meet other students who are going through a similar experience to you.
Don’t isolate yourself
We understand the temptation to get your head down and keep to yourself. But this approach can make you feel disconnected from the university experience, and you’ll miss out on so much that university is about. Sign up to societies to meet people with similar interests, have lunch on campus, live in halls of residence (you should be able to find halls that cater specifically for older learners), seek out other mature students.
Don’t underestimate the youngsters
While you may not be quite so interested in checking out the local nightclubs and drinking shots through your eyeballs, don’t make the mistake of thinking that’s all young students are about. Spend some time getting to know your course mates over coffee and you’ll be surprised how much you have in common. You’re studying the same subjects after all. And the more friends you can make, the more at home you’ll feel.
Don’t underestimate yourself
Quite often younger learners are drawn to mature students. You have a wealth of life experience they value. And, for many, your decision to return to education will be an inspiration. So don’t be surprised if you become a respected source of knowledge and a part of many students’ support networks. Embrace it; you can learn just as much from your younger peers as they can learn from you.
Stay in touch with your personal tutor
43% of mature learners juggle academic work with family and childcare responsibilities. It’s no wonder many start to feel overwhelmed. If your stress levels are soaring, set up a chat with your personal tutor. They can reassure you, offer study skills advice, and even find ways to make your workload more manageable. Many universities will also have a mature student representative who you can approach when real life starts to threaten your studies. There’s always something that can be done, so long as you have the guts to ask.
University isn’t that hard
Unlike younger students, you’ll be hugely appreciative of the opportunity to learn. Mature students take their studies more seriously and don’t let the social aspects of university life distract them. Not to mention the fact you’ve probably been rising early for 9am starts for a while already. The truth is, if you work steadily, treating your course like a full time job, you won’t need to pull all-nighters or ever experience the panic of being unprepared in class. So go forth and study like a pro.
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