An increasing number of mature students are enrolling in university – that is, any student who is 21 or over who hasn’t taken a university degree soon after school or college. Mature students come from a diverse range of backgrounds and are of many different ages. You may have taken some time away from education to volunteer, work or travel, and you may not be much older than the students starting straight after school. Around 40% of mature students are aged between 25 and 39 and have had a previous career and/or family responsibilities. A further 10% are aged over 40 before starting their studies. Many mature students have had a non-traditional or interrupted education in their earlier years, and you may already have made great efforts to study for A-level or university entry equivalent qualifications later in life to get this far. As a mature student, you are probably highly motivated and excited about the opportunity to study later in life, but you may also face some additional challenges as you settle in.
These challenges could include:
- Financial concerns – you may have less disposable income than younger undergraduates due to additional financial commitments such as providing for a family or paying a mortgage
- External responsibilities – these may include looking after young children or supporting elderly parents or a partner
- Time management – for example, continuing in paid employment alongside studying and managing family responsibilities
- Anxiety around academic performance - particularly if you have had a long gap between school education and higher education. Having chosen to change or adapt your current life situation and return to higher education, you may be driven to succeed but anxious about failure
- Concerns around ‘fitting in’ as a student – mature students may not be living on campus or in student accommodation, and you may be worried about being in a minority if you are older than many of your course peers.
How to help yourself
- Plan ahead – before you are on course if at all possible. Think realistically about combining your existing commitments and your new academic timetable – note how much time your ongoing commitments take up (e.g. work, childcare), and estimate how much time will be taken up with university commitments.
- Review your schedule regularly once you are on course and monitor how much time is taken up with your new academic timetable and assignments.
- Familiarise yourself with the University’s learning style and expectations - there are some useful online learning resources to refer to below, including details of registering for in-person study skills classes.
- Review your existing budget and outgoings; anticipating future additional costs will hopefully prevent you from unexpected shortfalls.
- Ensure you are taking advantage of all the funding entitlements available to you, apply for these as early as possible, and contact the University if you are experiencing financial difficulties.
- Look out for opportunities to join online forums for new students and get to know some people before you enrol in person.
- When on course, the first few weeks can feel overwhelming for all new students. Take your time to settle in but make sure you’re taking advantage of the new clubs and societies you can join in order to meet new people.
- Older students sometimes put extra pressure on themselves that they ‘should’ be coping better. Making the transition back to a learning environment can take some time. Watch out for persistent changes in your usual mood – and use the resources on campus to talk to somebody in person if you think difficult feelings, for example depression or anxiety, are having an impact on your studies.
- Don’t underestimate your life skills! Younger students may be interested to know about how you’ve got here. You may have valuable experience which they may want to learn from, such as time management and presentation skills. They may also have skills they can help you keep up to date with, for example e-learning.
- Try to keep a healthy balance – between work, study and relaxation. Try to involve the people from your outside ongoing commitments for support and to include them in your new university life too.
Getting support within the University
Your personal tutor: http://www.warwick.ac.uk/seniortutor
The University Counselling Service (UCS): http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/counselling/
Part-time & Mature Students Officer: http://www.warwicksu.com/democracy/officers/parttime/mature/
The Wellbeing Support Services home page is a good starting point: http://www.warwick.ac.uk/supportservices
Activities and societies within the University
The Wellbeing team organises a weekly lunchtime walk: http://www.warwick.ac.uk/mentalhealth/wellbeing/walks
Volunteering is a good way of meeting new people, using your existing skills and gaining confidence while helping others.
Warwick Arts Centre
The Student Union’s link to all societies and sports clubs:
The UCS runs a number of termly workshops on a range of topics such as coping with bereavement, managing anxiety and building self-confidence:
Other useful links:
UCAS mature student guide:
National Union of Students: http://www.nus.org.uk/PageFiles/12238/2012_NUS_millionplus_Never_Too_Late_To_Learn.pdf
Further self-help reference books for a variety of topics are available in the University library, details at:
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