A few helpful tips from your Student Office for Mature Students.
As we embark on a new academic year, let’s spare a thought for the students who will be taking their first steps into a lecture theatre this September. There’s certainly nothing more nerve-wracking than the first few weeks at university; possibly living away from your parents in a new city for the first time, trying to make new friends and navigating yourself through the messy social minefield of Freshers’ Week.
For mature students, however, the struggles can be very different.
Returning to education can be the one of the best decisions you can make. It’s like getting to the fifth chapter of War and Peace before realising that you’re just not enjoying it. There’s nothing wrong with adding it to your DNF pile and starting a new novel – one which leaves you happy and satisfied on completion. A change of career direction can lead to many new doors opening to you and ultimately, aid your own mental wellbeing. University can also equip you with skills and qualities which will enhance your CV as well as your self-esteem.
Of course, it’s not all plain sailing. Starting university after a long stint away from education can bring about problems which are not necessarily addressed in the Freshers’ Handbook.
Trying to fit in time to commit to studying around a part-time job or caring for a family requires major organisation and delegation. My biggest tip here is to be kind to yourself; you may be used to cooking a gourmet meal for your family each night, but it won’t kill them to have chicken nuggets now and again. Even better, get the family cooking for you instead. Now is the best time to teach the kids to use a vacuum. It’s only for a few months, during the semester crunch time, so it’s okay cut a few corners and pick up the slack later. For those students with part-time work, try and speak to your employer about cutting back your hours during certain times of the year. Many employers allow their staff a level of flexibility to accommodate education, so there’s no harm in asking.
Following on from that, if you have cut back on your hours at work to accommodate your studies, ensure you are claiming your full entitlement from Student Finance. If you’re encountering financial hardship, you may be eligible for some assistance from the Hardship Fund. You can find all sorts of help from Student Money and Rights Team (SMART) under the Money tab in UDO.
One major anxiety of new mature students is that they will be the oldest student on their course or the only mature student amongst a sea of Gen Zs. The truth is that over 21s make up more than 70% of the student population, so the chances of being the only mature student on your course are pretty slim. However, being a mature student comes with unexpected benefits. For instance, while the young’uns are under pressure to join in the late night festivities during Freshers’, mature students always have a ready-made excuse as to why they haven’t purchased a wristband. Mature students come to university equipped with a wealth of life experience and confidence which some younger students may find a source of comfort when you’re willing to be the first to speak up in a seminar or take the lead in a group presentation. You have to remember that no matter how old your peers are, everyone has something valuable to bring to the table and having different perspectives around a subject leads to a great learning experience for all.
Lastly, but most importantly, enjoy the ride. Your time at university is over so soon, even though it may seem like forever at the start. No matter what age you are, it truly is a unique experience so grab every opportunity with both hands. Join a society, volunteer for the Union, use all the facilities the uni has on offer. Of course, it goes without saying that studying is important too, but this is definitely the time to move out of your comfort zone and try something new. What’s the worst that can happen?
To get involved with the mature student community, why not head over to our new Discord server and introduce yourself.