Mature student view: five tips on returning to university
Heading back to university as a mature student isn't an easy path to embark on. Our mature student blogger Jayne shares how, at 29, the experience is going for her.
Here are five differences between my experience back then and what's it like now as a mature student – plus a few tips on how to ease your way back into university life.
We've also got advice if you're considering part-time study or the Access to HE route to university.
1. My priorities have all changedTaking the plunge and going back to education brings with it a whole different set of challenges to entering university straight from school.
For starters, my priorities are vastly different from those I had at 18. I'm more concerned with finding suitable part-time work than checking out the latest bars and clubs. I'm more interested in the sports clubs and joining the yoga class than I am with quirky societies.
Top tip: most students' unions elect a mature students' officer to represent the views and interests of mature students within both the union and university – make sure you vote for your preferred candidate come election time (or why not even put yourself forward..?).
2. I'm in the mature students' societyMost university student unions will have a dedicated mature students' society open for you to join and get involved with. At Cardiff University, where I study, there are approximately 6,000 mature students on campus. That’s a lot of people in a similar situation, with shared challenges and interests. That said...
Top tip: ...There's no archetypal mature student - in fact, you're classed as 'mature' if you're 21 or over! – so events organised through mature students' societies are equally diverse, with everything from family-friendly get-togethers to careers talks, training and nights out.
3. I'm living in not-so-student accommodationAfter working away for a number of years I'm also back in my own house as I have chosen – like many mature students – to study in my home city. This means I'm out in the sticks rather than in the vibrant student part of town. Do I miss out? I don't think so.
Top tip: universities usually recommend one or two particular halls of residence for mature or postgraduate students who are looking to live on campus – speak directly to the university's accommodation office for details.
4. I've got a more mature attitude to studyingThe course I'm studying is very full-on, jumping from academic subjects like critical thinking to practical courses such as camera training. It's been a lot to get my head round and is every bit as busy and rewarding as working a standard 9-5 week (it's fairly close to it!).
As a mature student I'm trying to be, well, more mature, about how I approach my studies – while still staying in touch with my younger course colleagues. This makes for an interesting juggling act between the library and the local pub at times, the library often winning out as the cheaper and more course-related activity – but that doesn't mean I still don't want to have fun and connect with other students.
Top tip: also make yourself known to your personal tutor. They're on hand to alleviate any number of worries about university and returning to study after life in the 'real world'. They can also advise you on the best ways of juggling family and work commitments with study.
5. My fellow students are a mixed bunchI was worried, wrongly, about being the oldest person in my class. The reality is that I've met fascinating people – of a range of ages – many older as well as younger than myself. I also have the pleasure of working with students from across the globe with a range of different experiences.
Top tip: talk to your fellow students. They may seem young but you’ve more in common with them than you might think; you’re sharing seminars and lectures, for starters. You may not be up for painting the town red every night but everyone needs a quiet coffee and a catch up.
The year ahead is looking like it's going to be filled with challenges and adventures. Studying as a mature student is not an easy choice to make but it is a worthwhile one.
Which? University provides guest spots to external contributors. Jayne Lutwyche is currently a Masters student at Cardiff University, where she's studying international journalism.