Depending on your own age, your vision of a mature student might be a grey-haired, bespectacled, cardigan-wearing, older person in their more ‘mature’ years.
This is, of course, a valid assumption to make but, technically, a mature student is anyone in higher education over the age of 21.
That’s right, a mere youngster of 21 is considered to be a mature student.
However, for the purposes of this post, we’re going to be talking about the more mature, mature student. Someone who’s going to university later in life for whatever reason. Perhaps because they want to retrain for a career change, or because they didn’t get the chance to go to university when they first left school, or they’re going to university just for fun to pursue an interest.
Whatever your reason for going to university as a mature student, it can be daunting.
You might be thinking how you’ll cope going ‘back to school’ and possibly being the oldest one in the class.
In some ways, going to university as a mature student has its advantages – you won’t have to live in student accommodation for one thing and you also won’t feel the peer pressure to go out downing shots every night (unless you want to, of course!)
But even if you’ve been to university before, going as a mature student will be different, so here are some tips on how to get the most out of being a mature student.
Consider a part-time course
A full-time degree is pretty full-on and, if you have other commitments such as a family and a mortgage, it can be especially difficult to keep the bills paid and everything running smoothly.
Although there are grants, loans and bursaries available, a part-time degree will allow you to work alongside your studies.
Of course, plenty, if not most, students of all ages have part-time jobs alongside their full-time degrees but a part-time course will give you a bit of breathing space to stop you feeling too overwhelmed and under pressure when it comes to juggling your home life alongside your studies.
As we just said, being a mature student usually means having other commitments jostling for attention alongside your studies.
Time has a habit of running away from us and it’s all too easy to get distracted by washing up that needs doing, a lawn that needs mowing or an under the stairs cupboard that needs decluttering.
And that’s not to mention the inexplicable urge to bake something whenever we need to sit down and focus on our studies.
Before you know it, your assignment’s due the next day and all you’ve got to show for it so far is a clean house, a tidy lawn and a huge batch of freshly-baked cookies.
Your actual time at university going to seminars, etc., may only be 10-14 hours a week if you’re full-time but you’ll be expected to top this up with another 20+ hours of studying by yourself.
Schedule everything you need to research, read or write each day, so you’re not panicking come the time your next assignment’s due.
Let your family know when you’ve scheduled study time and ask them for understanding and not to disturb you while you’re studying.
While we’re on the subject of a supportive family, some of your seminars may go on into the evening. So if your family’s used to relying on you at dinner time, make them aware they’ll have to fend for themselves sometimes.
Don’t fear the young people
One of the main worries mature students have about going to university is being the oldest one there.
But according to this report, in 2019/20 there were around 254,000 mature undergraduate entrants at UK universities – that’s 37% of all undergraduate entrants.
So, as you can see, you’re certainly not unique in being a mature student and there’s bound to be others on your course that haven’t just left school.
However, even if you are the only older person on your course, your coursemates really won’t care about your age.
You don’t have to go clubbing with them (although you can if you want to, of course) but sit with them in the coffee shop, go to the pub with them occasionally and just generally treat the youngsters as you’d treat anyone else and you’ll all get on fine.
If you really do feel a bit of a fish out of water, see if there’s a mature student’s union or society at your university where you can meet others your own age who might be feeling the same way.
Although you’re at university to study and work hard the same as anyone else, as a mature student you might be there purely for enjoyment and self-fulfilment.
You might also be wondering if you should be there at all though. You have every right to be there as much as anyone else, so enjoy your time there and get as much out of it as you can.
Don’t forget to apply for an NUS/Totum card and enjoy all the discounts and benefits that come with that, too!
Going back to university as a mature student is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling things you can do. Whether it’s for a career change or just for fun, gaining a degree will give you an immense sense of achievement and you’ll create many happy memories. .