I’ve never really done anything in the ‘correct’ order. At 18 I was working full time, determined to earn a wage and wasn’t willing to sacrifice 3 years of full time earnings to get myself a degree. However, at 24 I realised I was unhappy with my current situation and quit it all to embark on undergraduate study. I had no idea what returning to study was going to be like, surrounded by 18 year olds, and I was terrified of not fitting in as the ‘mature student’. The transition from full time employment to full time education was massive, but being only 4 months in, I can tell it was the best decision I have ever made.
★ If you’re in your twenties, the reality is nobody will even notice you are a ‘mature’ student. It turns out we are pretty terrible at guessing the age of others, and in reality, nobody really cares. On my course the age of students ranges from 18, to people in their 60’s. Your age will only be an issue if you make it one.
★ The actual application process can be very daunting, without a tutor to help you through it. However, the UCAS website have some great resources to help you along with things such as getting your references.
★ It’s really important to be humble. I found it hard in the first few weeks to not roll my eyes so hard they fell out of the back of my head. You’re probably ‘over’ clubbing. Drinking games and dodgy clubs are not your thing any more. But it’s important not to come across as a judgemental bore. I think we’ve all done some pretty questionable things when were 18. Enjoy your time, share stories, create new memories and embrace the new company.
★ Just because you have ‘life experience’ doesn’t mean you’re more intelligent. Thinking about it, the 18 year old’s fresh out of sixth form probably have the upper hand here. They have recent experience of exams, writing assignments and sitting in a classroom. Work together; it’s not a competition. There’s room for everyone to do well.
★ Financially it is difficult. You’ve been bringing in an annual salary for years, and now you’ve got to survive off a student loan; and a bursary if you’re lucky. I found myself a part time waitressing job a few nights a week. It’s not exactly glamorous but the hours are very flexible around university and it seriously helps with the rent/car/household bills that come with being a ‘grown up’. However, it is likely that finding part time work will be easier for your as a mature student, and you may be able to chose a part time job with a little more responsibility for a little extra cash.
★ The change to my daily routine was massive. The days of 6am alarms are long gone, and I found this to be really disorientating at first. I actually found it really lonely. You can be in university for 2 hours a day, but with another 5 or 6 hours work to do at home on your own; whilst your significant other, friends and family are all at work. I was used to working in an office surrounded by 30+ other people to chat to, and now spend lots of time alone. I’ve combated this by finding new places to work. Working from the library or popping to a coffee shop for an hour; it really helps to break the day up.
★ It’s really, really easy to make friends. These people might not turn out to be lifelong, maid of honour type friends. But crab a coffee, go for a quick pint or late-night-messages-about-work type friends are really easy to find. The serious point of this is that it isn’t necessary to only mingle with the other ‘mature students’. There is so much to learn, and so much fun to be had from mixing with everyone, both on your course and in the university as a whole.