Taking the plunge and juggling life as a mature student

I’d always been quite studious and enjoyed my time at school, but circumstances meant that when I left school at the age of 16 (almost 20 years ago- shhh!) I didn’t go on to higher education and began working instead. I worked for the same company for 16 years but, although I was relatively happy, never felt true job satisfaction. However, life took over and I felt like I become stuck in work due to financial commitments, lack of further education, and having two children to think about.

I thought I was in a job for life, but life threw me a curve-ball in the form of breast cancer at the age of 33. Time off for treatment made me re-evaluate my life and I decided to follow my dream of becoming a primary school teacher. I successfully completed an Access to Social Care course and applied for a place at Hope on the BA Primary Education with QTS course. I had made the leap and I was excited to go to university.

However, the niggles of doubt and guilt crept in; Who will accept me at their university? What if I can’t do it? Will I be able to afford it? Will I have enough time with my family? Will I still be able to work to earn some money? All these thoughts swirled through my mind and, having spoken to other mature students on my course, I realised that this is totally normal.

I spoke to various people to gain invaluable advice and made a clear plan, which is what I would impart on any other potential mature student:

Apply for the course – if you don’t take the chance, you will only regret it.

Apply for finance – alongside the loan for tuition fees, apply for a maintenance loan. It’s not going to make you a millionaire, but it will certainly help to support you.

Time management – this is key to everybody, but particularly mature students. It sounds basic but draw up a timetable of non-negotiable activities (classes, lectures, employment, time with family, eating, relaxing, independent study, etc.) and then see where there is room for manoeuvre. You’ll be surprised that you DO have time for fun!

Think about a part-time job – obviously it is a struggle financially if you are going from a well-paid job to nothing, so if it is possible to work a few hours around your timetable then I would recommend it. It helps to alleviate a bit of guilt, or it certainly does in my case!

Have faith – this means not only having faith in yourself, but also in the university and your family and friends to support you. People will be far more willing to help than you expect.

And my one final tip is to enjoy it! Yes, you won’t be at all the nights out, but make the most of your experience; I’ve made new friends and am relishing the thought of getting stuck in- this is one of the best decisions I have ever made.


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