Staying in on a Friday night to finish your homework and wandering around campus with students young enough to be your children can seem a daunting prospect. Follow our survival guide to cope with life as a mature student.
1. Make sure you prepare your family and friends for the changes in your lifestyle. University can cause a huge change in some people, as you are being exposed to other ways of thinking which are likely to affect your own. It can put a strain on relationships, so from the start be open and honest with those closest to you and it will not come as so much of a shock. It will also have a huge impact on your spare time; your partner may be used to having you all to themselves and the shock of having to share you with books and studying may take a while to sink in.
2. Think of the best ways to manage your time effectively, fitting in your various commitments whilst studying for a degree is likely to be a struggle at first. It might be wise to draw up a schedule of your typical week as a student, including time that will need to be spent in the library. Jot down your other priorities and work out the best way to fit it all in. A degree shouldn’t cause you to give up the things you love, if you are an avid gym goer, keep it up. If you’re not doing the things that make you happy then your work is bound to suffer.
3. But remember you are not superhuman! There may be times when you have to let friends down, say if a 2000 word assignment has just been sprung on you and you don’t have time to go out for a meal. Explain the circumstances and they will understand, it is impossible to keep everyone happy at one given time.
4. Be confident and approach other students on your course. No matter what their age is, you have chosen to study the same subject so that is already one thing you have in common. Feeling socially connected with other students will make university life a lot less daunting and lonely. It will also give you the opportunity to set up study groups and get other opinions on a topic you may not be sure about.
5. If you are struggling, ask for help! Universities have so many different people you can turn to, and it will get a whole lot worse if you bottle it up inside. Your tutors, course leaders, student services and counselling service will all be able to offer you help. Your time at university should be enjoyable, not terrifying.
6. Make sure you keep organised, some of us are born that way, and others have to try a little harder. Throughout university you will be taking pages and pages of notes in seminars and lectures. Organise and file your work for each module into the topics and themes covered. This will make revision a whole lot easier.
7. Keep up with the reading; booklists are there for a reason and will vastly improve your overall understanding of the topics covered. Set aside some time to complete the reading, rather than trying to skim read a 500 page book the night before a seminar.
8. Unfortunately higher education does not come cheap, and you and your family may have to cope with a change in your finances. Try to get as many books as you can second-hand, which is a real money saver. Bursaries from the university itself are also often available and are worth looking into. www.direct.gov.uk will give you more information about other funding options.