When I left secondary school I started university the following year. Almost all the first year students were my age. There were only a few mature age students. These days there are people of all ages studying at university. Recently I met a man on the train who is retired and in his sixties. He is studying at university and enjoying it so much he plans to do another degree when he finishes this one.
I went back to university as an ‘internal’ student when I was close to fifty. For the purposes of university study, the term ‘mature’ is used for anyone twenty one or over. There were many students in their thirties, forties and fifties doing my course.
It probably depends on individual circumstances and the course being studied but I found there were advantages to being an older student. For my course, social work, I think life experience was an advantage. For example, when we studied Social Policy I could remember a time when attitudes were different but the students straight out of school had to imagine it.
Mature age students are likely to have different challenges to work around in order to get their assignments and essays done. Surprisingly, I found it easier to organise myself to get work submitted on time than when I was younger. I think experience as a parent and employee and being used to prioritising helped. I was accustomed to blocking out distractions and socialising was not so important. Having said this, I must add that I made some wonderful friends at uni as a mature age student and we sometimes went out on the weekend.
When I started my course there were many things I had to learn. I had to improve my computer and internet search skills. I had no experience of PowerPoint and had to learn how to do a presentation for some assignments. The students who had come into the course from school and those mature age students who had used a range of computer skills extensively in the course of their employment hit the ground running.
I had to learn how to write and reference an essay. Yes, I had studied at university thirty years earlier but things had changed a great deal. I learnt so much from other students, especially those who had done a bridging course prior to starting their degree. There were numerous times when I got help from young students as well as from lecturers and the campus learning adviser.
For anyone starting as an internal mature age university student I suggest
Take advantage of as many of the introductory sessions in Orientation Week as you can.
Become familiar with the online support your university offers.
Get to know your fellow students of all ages and learn from each other.
Don’t panic. You will get the hang of it.
Get involved in social activities on campus and have fun.
You are never too old to undertake study. You will gain from the experience, both academically and socially.