How to Cope Being a Mature Student
Going back to school after a break can be daunting! These tips will help you ease back into student life as a Mature Student.
With the start of a new academic year approaching, many of us will be returning to school and college. For some it will be their first time back in the classroom since they were a teenager or young adult.
Continuing your education is an amazing thing to do. It not only helps with your future career prospects, but it also helps to keep those brain cells in top working order!
The thought of going back to school, however, can be daunting, to say the least.
You are filled with a mixture of emotions from excitement about learning new knowledge and skills, to fear or failure, to dreading being the oldest one in a room of young adults!Fear not! I am here to cheer you on, to support your decision to return to education - yes, you are doing the right thing - and to give you tips on how to cope with some aspects of becoming a student again!
Firstly, let’s talk about finances.
Managing your finances as a student, even if you are still working and studying at the same time, is key to making sure you are able to complete your course without bankrupting yourself or worrying where you are going to find the next cheque to pay your bills.
When you become a student again, your finances will take an extra hit. Not only will you need to ensure that you can pay for each course module as it arises, you also need to be able to afford books, stationery, tech - like a new laptop, and all the other hidden costs that soon mount up.
As you return to your studies, the normal income that you are used to, might be reduced one way or another. You might be working less hours at your job. You may even have given up your job in order to study full time.
If you are a parent, you may also need to find money for extra childcare or after school clubs, just so that you can attend your classes.
Socialising is also an important aspect of student life. Getting to know others on your course will help you enjoy your experience more and will also provide you with like-minded people to bounce ideas about with. So, make sure that you allow some extra money for lunch/coffee/after class drinks with your new friends.
Don’t shy away from sorting out your finances. Sit down and work out what money you have coming in and when, and what money is due to go out, and when. Know your spending limits and remember to save money in order to be able to afford the next stage of your course, if you are paying by instalments.
By dealing with your finances from the start, you will remove any anxiety over what you can and can’t afford. Remember that once you have worked out your weekly/monthly budget - stick to it!
Next I want to bring up the topic of technology.
When I went to school, there wasn’t a thing called the ‘Internet’. We didn’t have mobile phones and a tablet was something that your doctor prescribed you if you were poorly!
OK, so I may be showing my age here, but, I know I am not the only one out there who has lived through these ‘dark ages’, and for those who are technophobes, like myself, I must include this little bit of advice today.
The advice is, that before you start your course, make sure that you have a laptop or computer to work from, that has up to date software installed and running on it.
Then, and this is the scary part, you need to learn how to use it!
Unlike my school days, assignments are generally submitted online. You use email and chat groups to communicate with your fellow students and lecturers and reading and writing from paper seems to be a thing from the past.
If tech isn’t your thing, or you are a bit rusty with it all, then I suggest that you take a refresher course before you start your main studies. The last thing you need, when you start your new course, is to fall behind because you can’t operate your computer properly.
Your computer, or laptop, will become your closest companion throughout your course, so make sure it is up to date and that you can use it to its best advantage.
As a returning student, you are likely to have more commitments than your fellow younger students.
You may have a job, family and kids that also expect a share of your time each day.
Managing your time effectively is one of the hardest parts of returning to education. It’s one of the main reasons why many people put off returning to study, as they have no idea how to fit in the extra work to an already busy lifestyle.
I am not going to tell you that this will be easy. Fitting your study time in around your work and family commitments is tough. You will come home after a long day and not only be expected to complete the assignment that is due in the next day, but also make dinner, get your kids ready for bed and prepare their clothes and packed lunches for the next day.
No, it’s not going to be easy. It will, however, be very rewarding and your kids will be so proud of you on your graduation day. You need to work out how you are going to make this happen so that you can plan that awesome family graduation party with them.
Take this opportunity to show your kids that you can achieve your dreams when you put your mind to it. They will learn from watching you and will carry this thinking into their own lives.
So, how are you going to fit it all in?
First things first. You need to sort out a wall planner and put it somewhere that everyone can see it. You can get some great family ones now, where there is a space for every member of your household.
To this planner, you will want to add your term start and end dates, exam period and when your major assignments are due in.
Write in anything that affects the household. This way, everyone can see what your schedule is and plan to work around it.
Other than a wall planner for the house, you might want to think of using a calendar app such as google or outlook. You can then give your partner access to view your calendar and vice versa, so that you both know what’s happening and when.
I use this system in my family. We can then see what is coming up for everyone and plan around it.
Other than making sure that your family are kept up to date with your new schedule, you must take a closer look at your own study timetable.
Once you have the key dates for exams and assignments, make sure that you work backwards from that date, and plan your workload accordingly.
My advice would be to aim to complete assignments at least a week in advance. That means if something goes pear-shaped in your personal life, you have a few extra days to complete the task in time.
It is best, however, to start working on your assignments as soon as you are given them. It is far easier to work on them in little chunks, after a long day, rather than having a marathon catch-up weekend just before the due date!
Use your time wisely and try to sneak in extra study at lunchtimes or while you travel to and from school. Resource free online courses and podcasts that may compliment your subject and listen to them while you are on the move.
You might find it will take you a while to get back into the swing of studying again, but don’t give up.
Stick to your study plan and if you need help, then make sure you ask for it.
You may feel a little intimidated knowing that you will likely be the oldest person in your class. You will need to accept the fact that your fellow students will be a bit younger than yourself, but don’t let this put you off!
You must remember that these students are there for the same main reason that you are - they have an interest in the subject that you will be studying. This will give you ready made point of conversation to get you started, and from there you can move on and find out more about them as individuals. Sure, you might not all share the same tastes, and you may not be up for the clubbing at the weekends, but don’t dismiss the chance to build friendships with these people, just because they are younger.
I remember when my own Gran decided to enrol in a computing course when she was in her 80's. She decided that it was time to move away from a typewriter and use a computer instead for writing her letters. This was one of the reasons she decided to take the course.
The other reason was that although she was still an active woman, both physically and mentally, she was finding that her friends were slowing down around her, and she just wanted to meet people that were still on her level of activity.
By going back to school, she met a group of people who were in their 40's and they all became good friends. My Gran never made the age difference a big deal, and neither did her new friends. Going back to school gave my Gran a new, useful skill, a new purpose to her day and friends that she wouldn’t have met had she not enrolled.
With all the talk of juggling time and finances etc, it is easy to start feeling overwhelmed by the thought of going back to school.
If you let yourself, you can and will start to have fun! Remember there is no point in being there if you don’t open yourself up to the possibility of enjoying the experience.
Enjoy learning new skills and meeting new friends.
You should be so proud of yourself for taking this step, so go in there with your head held high and go get that new qualification!