Going to Uni as a Mature Student? Worry not, help is at hand!
But first I have something I need to say…
It should have gone out last week, but…well, I have a confession to make…
I skipped, skived, wagged, went AWOL, played hookie or any other way you can think of saying that I missed school! I had a last minute opportunity to take a short break away with my family and I took it. Well, it’s not every year we get a heatwave in the UK now is it?
We had a great time (even if we did pick the week that the heatwave broke) and I’m back refreshed and good to go!
As it’s turned out my little foray to the seaside might have worked out quite well. You see, while I was away, I was contacted by a few readers asking me for advice on how to approach going to university as a mature student.
And, as I like to make sure that I’m providing information that is going to help you, I decided to write this post.
So, thank you to those who reached out. It’s great to know when I’m writing that my content is targeted and helpful to you.
So let’s get into it…
QUESTION: Am I too old to go to University?
Short answer – NO!
You’re never too old. Whether you’re a total newbie in your thirties who has never stepped through the doors of academia or whether you’re a returning student who already has a degree but has decided to go back and get some more qualifications for whatever reason, the thought of going to university as a mature student can be daunting.
Trust me I know. I’ve been there.
If you’ve read my post about why I decided to start this bog you’ll know that I wasn’t exactly in the normal age range for freshers week. I was in my mid-thirties when I went to university and to be honest the first few weeks were well, scary.
Here are some of the fears that I experienced (let me know in the comments if any of them resonate with you):
- I’m too old to fit in with all the youngsters
- I want to socialise with like-minded people but I won’t be living in halls so how can I enjoy the company of my fellow students?
- Or the flip-side of the last point, I will be living in halls am I going to fit in? Will I be able to live and work in a chaotic environment?
- Everyone’s going to think I’m weird because learning’s for young people, isn’t it?
- If I ask or answer questions in lectures everyone will think I’m a try hard
- Because I’m older the other students will think I know everything, even though I don’t. Nobody likes a know-all do they?
- The university is so big – how will I know where to go?
There are probably a lot more fears and concerns that prospective mature students experience. For example, if you’re a returner you may feel that you’re not going to be as clever as everyone else and that you’re going to look stupid if the lecturer asks questions and you don’t know the answers.
But here’s the thing – there is no need to be afraid.
Here are some of the facts about how ALL students feel:
- Everyone is entering a new and slightly daunting (at first) environment, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll settle in and start enjoying the new challenges and opportunities that will be presented to you
- Everyone is concerned that they are not going to fit in and make friends
- Everyone will at some point suffer from something called Imposter Syndrome and will doubt that they even deserve their place at university (there will be more on this in a later post)
- Everyone feels like they’ve been dropped into a city without a map (don’t worry, there will be maps available to help you get about)
- Everyone will worry that they’re not clever enough and that they won’t know the answers to the questions they’re being asked
You’re not supposed to know all the answers that’s why you’re called a student – you’re there to learn!
So, what can I do to fit in?
- Make the first move, talk to people
- Listen to people
- Suggest going for coffee after lectures (or before – this can be a great way to relax going into a lecture because it’s great to share your concerns over a strong cuppa and a breakfast – it worked for me!)
- Forget your age – it’s irrelevant! Remember, you’re all studying the same subjects so you already have a common interest in the subject you’re studying
- Join some societies or clubs that are run by the university
- Find out whether your university has a dedicated support team to help mature students
- Familiarise yourself with the layout of the university and offer to help other students find out where they need to be – be their go-to guide
- But most importantly remember to
SMILE AND BE YOURSELF!
How can I take the stress out of going to lectures?
- Take a bit of time to just get used to being at university – it’s a whole new experience and you will need time to settle in
- Remember the 5 Ps:
- Make sure you read any materials that you’ve been asked to before the lecture
- Make a list of any questions that you have thought of as you’ve read the materials or done the homework
- Don’t panic if you are asked a question and you don’t know the answer – you can bet that you won’t be on your own in not knowing. If this mortifying situation happens to you, just take a look round the room. You’ll see a lot of your peers forcing themselves deeper into their seats thanking all the omniscient beings in the world that they weren’t asked that question. Good news – now you have them on your side!
Something to think about…
As a mature student you have a lot lot give. You’ve probably been in the workplace and learnt how to communicate; how to organise; how to work with other people and how to lead. All of these skills will make you a valuable member of the undergraduate or post graduate community…and they’ll give you a bit of a head-start when it comes to studying effectively.
Relax! – You’ve got this covered!
One last favour…
Exciting times, or what?
Further Reading (Freebie alert!)
- How to Prepare for Your First Lecture at University – I have a freebie for you! If you’d like to know how you can better prepare to go to your first lecture you might like to download my worksheet on the topic by clicking the link
- UCAS Mature Students’ Guide – There’s some excellent information available from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). It is written for mature students in Britain, but the content is quite general and should help you no matter what part of the world you’re in. There are also some great video testimonials from people who have been just where you are now. I think you’ll find them both helpful and reassuring.