Why returning to study as a mature student isn't scary

Chelsea - Biosciences, BSc

So you’re over the age of 21 and taking the leap back into education? Well first off – be proud of yourself. It’s a huge step, perhaps you have family commitments, a job, it’s huge!

Whether you’re studying a subject you’re passionate about, to help with career development, or returning to education after a break, age is just a number and makes no difference when it comes to going to university.

You might have many thoughts/feelings about returning to education, here are some common fears I’ve found, plus my own personal experience and why you don’t need to worry.

“Am I going to have to learn how to learn again?”

It might have been some time since you last stepped into the classroom, which can be an overwhelming thought. I know I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of all things study related. However, there will be many others feeling the same way, whether you are 18, 21 or 50. Studying a degree is a challenging but exciting experience. Your lecturers will be there to support you and the University has many support teams, including WISER who run Study Skills workshops to help you with assignments. There’s also the Wellbeing team, who can help with your mental health and wellbeing whilst studying.

“How can I balance study and family life?”

I started my degree, single and child free. A year later I was pregnant and applying for a two-year gap in my studies. I returned to study with a toddler and a partner who was also in full-time education. I’ll be honest here: if you have children, are a single parent or have a partner in full-time work/education, studying is tough. However, it is manageable and there are plenty of ways you can maximise your time studying.

Although it might take some time for you to get your head around things at the beginning, it’s important to remember that you have priorities, responsibilities and commitments that other students might not have. However, your lecturers will be aware of this and will be able to provide support where possible. If you have a partner or family close by, use them as much as you can! Even if your partner is working, compromise. You drop the kids off, they pick them up. You have Saturday morning to study, they take the afternoon. Or vice versa. Work together. That is the most important part of balancing study and family life.

"Some of my best friends are five years younger than me and they all care about my family. We have so much in common that I feel comfortable sharing my worries and anxieties. So don’t worry about fitting in, you’ll soon find there’s no right or wrong way to be a mature student."

“Am I going to fit in?”

Honestly, I thought about this for months before returning to study and the quick answer is yes, you will most definitely fit in. Some of my best friends are five years younger than me and they all care about my family. We have so much in common that I feel comfortable sharing my worries and anxieties. So don’t worry about fitting in, you’ll soon find there’s no right or wrong way to be a mature student.

“Will the lecturer think I’m stupid if I don’t understand?”

This was one of my main worries. All I can say is definitely not. If something doesn’t make sense, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for clarification. Whatever course you’re studying, lecturers are there to help and they WANT to help you. Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you know more than your cohort. You’re studying a new degree too!

“I’m going to be surrounded by 18-year-olds who want to party!”

You’ll find a lot of students come straight from college but there’s more mature students than you might think. I have been a Student Ambassador for two years now and I have met plenty of first year students who are in their late 20s, early 30s. I study Biology and besides myself, there are two other mature students. You’ll find there’s a variety of age ranges and life experiences, whatever course you study.

I hope that this blog has eased your worries, even just a little bit. You aren’t alone. Remember why you are returning to study. The main thing for me is that I know I’m going to be making a difference in what I’m doing. I want to be a teacher and studying as a mature student has increased my confidence, improved my people skills and enabled me to obtain teaching experience in ways I never expected. Tackle this with an open mind, an open heart and enjoy yourself! This is your journey to achieving your goals, whatever they are.

Good luck!

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