Dear mature students, this is an article for you. All you guys who show up prepared for class, instead of rocking up with a hangover and an empty notepad. You thirty-somethings with a headful of aspirations and a genuine enthusiasm for learning.
You didn’t sleepwalk into university because your guidance teacher told you to. After years of working in a job you disliked, you aimed a little higher, worked a little harder and now you’re shooting for a qualification that could change it all.
Teenagers might roll their eyes at you when you seem outspoken in class, but you’re there to learn – and chances are you’re working a job on the side just to sustain yourself.
Sure, it sometimes feels a little daunting to be surrounded by so many fresh-faced freshers, their hairlines intact and not a wrinkle in sight. But while these raucous young ones might seem like they’ve got little interest in their subject, they could learn a lot from you.
To coin a cliché, age really is just a number. You’re all in a classroom for one reason – to learn from a professional.
According to national newspaper the Telegraph, around one-quarter of UK students are mature and, even though tuition fee prices are increasing, the number of students in that age bracket is on the rise.
Yet the campus lifestyle makes few efforts to cater for middle-aged students. Your student union, while it’ll gladly invite the cast of Geordie Shore along for a meet and greet, is unlikely to have a similar 40+ evening.
For many mature students, the experience can be alienating and isolating. Some decide that campus lifestyle isn’t for them. If that’s happened to you, alternatives are available.
Distance learning makes a point of catering for those already in employment. Designed to be undertaken online or in the workplace, it’s a qualification type that’s perfect when you’re juggling responsibilities.
Online or Campus?
In line with the more practical edge that online degrees have over their campus counterparts, distance learning is usually vocational. A leadership and management degree can be taken to gain a promotion, for instance. Bona fide universities provide these courses, generally well-respected institutions.
Any mature student who decides to study on campus, however, doesn’t have to feel isolated. While your student union might not cater to your interests, there are plenty of other events happening around campus.
Wine tastings, guest speakers, rigorous and fierce debates, and societies that don’t revolve around drinking – they’re not as prominently advertised around campus, but they exist.
It’s easy to think you’re out of your element surrounded by people half your age. But consider this – most of the people around you just left school, and they’re just as out of their element as you are. So make friends and enjoy your studies.