In this post, I'm going to talk to you about how I've found being a 'mature student' (sometimes called an adult learner). I am 26 years old and I have experienced being a fresher at university aged 18, as well as being a student who has come back to study an undergraduate course after a few years of working full-time.
I decided to come back to Leeds Beckett to study a second undergraduate degree because I wasn’t happy in the job role I was in. I didn’t feel I was challenged, and I wanted to become a professional woman with specialist knowledge. I just remember thinking “if I don’t do something about this now, when am I going to? Am I going to wait another year? Another 5 years?”. It is a scary prospect, especially when it means sacrificing full time paid work. However, making a decision that will ultimately improve your life is definitely worth it (in my opinion anyway!) Plus - I REALLY missed Leeds! I love living here and I really missed it when I was away.
I was initially very worried about joining the course, thinking it would be all 18 year olds and I would be the oldest person there. A big worry was that I would be the only person not wanting to go out partying every night. During my interview I asked about the ratio of freshers to mature students, and my course team reassured me it is always a mixture of people of different ages. If this is something you are worried about, I would highly recommend that you ask your course team on an open day or via email.
So, the time came for me to join the course. I'm pleased to say that I made friends on the course straight away - mainly a group of girls who are similar to my age who have similar lifestyles. I found that the course is full of people of all ages, and with lots of different circumstances - not just all your typical 18 year old straight out of sixth form. I would say half of the course is made up of people who have come to university later in life. There's people who have children, who work part time, who live with friends, live alone and travel from far away, the list goes on! Overall, settling into my course was absolutely fine. As the course has progressed I find my biggest support network to be my course mates – no matter what age they are. The friends I have made and the people I have met at university come from all over the country and I really like that.
It is strange, coming back to study after a break. The first time around I chose a course I knew I would be able to succeed in as I had worked in the field before. I had contacted people before I moved in and made good friends with the people I lived with in halls (who I am still friends with today). I didn’t really have an end goal in mind, just that I felt the right thing to do was to leave school after my A-Levels and go straight to university. However, this time around I have actively made a decision to come back to university to pursue a specific, vocational career that I knew I would find very challenging. This has made me appreciate my studies a lot more than I did at a younger age.
I think being a mature student has given me a really good starting point in terms of life experience. I'm comfortable meeting new people, and I was able to work full time to gain an understanding about the vocation. It's also given me an upper hand when it comes to working alongside others in a professional way. In all honesty, I don’t feel that I (only speaking for myself) would have been able to do as well on the course without this experience.
If you are worried about taking the decision to apply for university to come and study after a bit of a break, my advice would be this. You have had some life experience, no matter what it is, that has made you realise what you want to do next which is amazing. I often have little worries about the fact I've come back to university to complete an undergraduate course which I find challenging. However, when I feel like this, every step of the way my feedback from others has been 'Look how far you have come, look what you have achieved through making this decision!' which is really reassuring. If you want something in your life, be it a career change or to achieve a degree in something you are passionate about, I would say go for it! Be brave and have faith in yourself – being a mature student has been a really positive experience for me, and I would highly recommend it.
Thank you so much for reading – I wish you the best of luck!