Finding motivation as a mature-age student: PLAs share their stories

Starting uni is an exciting but often nerve-wracking step – particularly if you’ve been away from studying for a while. How will you juggle work, life, and other commitments? And how can you stay motivated to complete mammoth tasks like essays and reports?

Lots of help is available at La Trobe. You can make an appointment with Library staff, drop in to see a Peer Learning Advisor (PLA), or sign up for an academic skills workshop. Our Spotlights on Success workshop series is designed to set you up for success as you tackle your final assessments – join us to learn about harnessing motivation, overcoming perfectionism, and more.

Below, our PLAs share their experiences and advice for navigating the return to study and maintaining your motivation throughout the semester.

You have clear goals – Rhys, Psychology student

I found returning to study as a mature age student to be a positive experience.

The time spent away from school gave me a chance to work out what sort of career I wanted, as my goals have changed substantially since then.

Beginning a job straight after high school also had great benefits. Working required me to be reliable, punctual, and self-motivated – all of which are transferable and helpful for university. Although it can be daunting to return as a mature-age student, there are absolutely benefits to doing so!

You’re ready for your study journey – Jae, Audiology student

As a mature age student, I felt much more prepared for the university lifestyle. During my time away from studying, I was able to learn about what was important to me and what I wanted to do in my future career. I was able to develop career goals, which gave me more focus and drive at university. In addition, I gained many skills while working prior to applying for university, such as time management, problem-solving, and working with a team.

I even gained knowledge and insights during my time away from studies that became very useful for my assignments!

While it is terrifying going back to university as a mature age student, it was absolutely worth it.

You have valuable life skills – Hannah, Zoology student

It can definitely be overwhelming coming back to study when you’ve taken a long break. I personally came back to study eight years after dropping out of high school. Many teachers will assume you have knowledge of certain subjects when many of these are often part of the Year 12 curriculum. Truthfully, it can feel isolating knowing that many of the people around you have fresh memories of a subject that you haven’t so much as heard of.  

I have found myself having to dedicate extra time to understanding concepts that are presumed knowledge. This sometimes entails consulting tutors, emailing lecturers, and relying heavily on Google. Luckily, eight years in the workforce have provided me with organisational skills, initiative, and independence that makes progressing through university a relatively undaunting task.  

In ways that I may lack academically, I make up for in my ability to seek assistance, to prioritise, and to effectively manage time to tackle a task, owed to many years of real-world experience.

That’s the reality for mature-age students – we can achieve just as much, if not more, by using skills that we’ve developed during adulthood.

You appreciate the joy of lifelong learning – Kaari, Audiology student

I feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to return to uni as a mature age student. My experience this time around has been so different compared to when I first went to uni straight out of high school.

It feels like such a luxury to be able to spend time expanding my knowledge and actively engage in learning.

It did take some time to adjust to new expectations, navigate online systems and manage my time effectively when the semester first started. I came into the experience with the mindset that the only thing that I could control was the time I put into my studies, and this really helped me achieve success in my first year back. I’ve also found it useful to completely step away and do something unrelated to studying when I feel stuck and frustrated writing an assignment or doing a complicated reading – often I find during the break that I make a mental breakthrough.

For more tips on motivation, whatever stage of the study journey you are on, join our Master your Motivation workshop on Monday 26 September, from 1 pm to 1.30 pm with an open Q&A to follow.

You can also drop in to see a PLA. The drop-in service is available Monday to Friday, throughout the semester.