Whilst many adults will choose to further their learning by combining it on a flexible, part-time basis with their work commitments, many thousands of adult learners each year decide to ‘go the whole hog’ and enrol at a college or university as a full-time mature student. It may be that they choose to do this as it would take too long to pursue a particular course of learning on a part-time basis or they may feel completely unfilled in their current job and wish to start over a new life and head towards a new career direction altogether and feel that by going full-time as a mature student. It is far preferable than doing a job they don’t enjoy combined with studying.
For some, it may always have been a lifelong ambition to become a full-time student which they didn’t get around to doing in their formative years. In fact, there can be any number of reasons why people choose to become full-time students later in life although the good news is that the vast majority will tell you afterwards that it’s an experience they wouldn’t have missed for the world. The key to a successful experience as a full-time mature student, however, is to learn how to adapt to what might be a completely different way of life to what you’re used to and here are some pointers into the kinds of issues you might experience and how to best adapt to them.
Embrace Your Social Network
The social element of university life underpins much of what university life is all about. Universities these days are very keen to attract people of all ages, cultures and social backgrounds and, whatever your own background is and what existing social networks you have, you should adopt a similar all-encompassing attitude. Initially, what might surprise you is that there are likely to be more mature students than you’d envisaged and whilst you’re more likely to gravitate towards creating new friendships with students who are of a similar age to yourself, you’ll soon find that you’ll have a lot more in common with the younger, more ‘conventional’ students than you thought.
One of the beauties of becoming a mature student is to make new friendships across both a broad age and cultural range which previously, you might have never have envisaged doing. By being open, friendly and accessible to all, this important aspect of adapting to life as a mature student will be achieved far more quickly and easily. This is one of the reasons why you should, where possible, attend ‘Freshers Week’ where everyone is new, everyone feels a little bit strange and out of their depth and where everyone is keen to establish friendships quickly.
Explore The Campus And Find Out What’s On Offer
The sooner you know your way around campus and the types of events, facilities and both social and sporting/hobby activity groups that are available the better. You’ll discover the best (and cheapest) places to eat and drink, ways you might choose to spend some spare time with like-minded people with whom you might share common interests and gain a better understanding of campus life in general. Even if you’re full-time but perhaps you have a family and live at home, it’s still useful to familiarise yourself with all the elements of what campus life is like and what it has to offer.
When it comes to time management, you’ll usually find that you fall into one of two categories. If you’ve a family and the commitments which that entails, you may need to plan meticulously to ensure that you can fulfil your course obligations whilst still making time for your family and this can often mean making some sacrifices on both sides. However, if you’ve no family ties, you’re probably going to rub your hands with glee as you’ll be amazed at how much time you’ll have to complete your coursework and assignments. And, whilst not suggesting student life is easy, if you’ve come to full-time education later in life having held down a full-time job for several years, you should have few problems in managing your curricular and extra-curricular (i.e. social) responsibilities and activities.
Allowing For Change and Expectations
Becoming a full-time mature student will involve change and it’s probably fair to say that the older you are, the greater the degree of ‘change’ that you’ll need to be prepared to embrace. Likewise, although you’ve become a student for a specific purpose, if that purpose is career-focused, be realistic in your expectations at what you’ll hope to achieve once you’ve graduated. By that, it’s important to focus on career choices where age, maturity and experience are highly sought after qualities and, even though new age discrimination legislation makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of age, it’s important to take a realistic view of where you might see yourself working after you’ve graduated.
Every university and college has its own network of counselling and support services so if you should find yourself becoming a little overwhelmed by the transition or you’re experiencing any other problems, both your course lecturers and your support services should be able to help you to overcome any professional or, perhaps, personal difficulties you might be having.Above all else, enjoy it and go into it with enthusiasm and excitement. Whether young or old, everyone will tell you that you only get out of university what you put into it and, for many, their full-time student memories will live long and be remembered fondly for many years after they’ve graduated.