Mature age student Claire Kearns studied a Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe University. She shares what she’s learned about starting tertiary study later in life.
1. Younger students are buzzed for you
As a mature-age student, you’ll be studying with students younger than you. But Claire says there’s no need to worry about how you’ll relate to each other.
“I thought I’d be surrounded by millennials who I had nothing in common with and I’d be deemed uncool,” she says.
“The younger students are buzzed for you! They’re interested in you and what led you to be at university, and see you as equal. They’re friendly, helpful, interested in your insights and willing to have you in their groups.”
2. Teaching staff are understanding
Coming to university later in life means you’re often balancing things like work, study and family. The good news is, so are many of the teaching staff. According to Claire, staff appreciate your struggle and are approachable and supportive.
“While ‘my son couldn’t get to sleep because he had a blood nose and then lay awake freaking out about high school’ doesn’t sound like the greatest excuse in the world, the staff are living that life, too,” she says.
“They get what parenthood is and totally get your other commitments. If anything, they respect you more for trying to juggle learning and parenthood.”
3. You’ve learned to practice patience
What life experience have you gained outside of university? Maybe you’ve been a parent, pursued a career, travelled the world or spent time volunteering or caring? Whether you’ve considered it or not, your life experiences have taught you essential soft skills. One skill that’s especially handy at university is patience.
“As you gain your degree, the patience to deal with university systems, wait for grades, listen to explanations of assignments and negotiate public transport is very helpful to have,” Claire says.
4. You’re compelled to embrace new technology
University systems are close to paper-free, which means you’ll use IT to enrol, study, learn and progress through your degree. Even if you regularly use software in your work or have tech at home, getting to know the university Learning Management System (LMS) can take time.
Yes, the corporate world uses IT. Yes, we all grew up with the internet and use it daily. But when we were last in a formal classroom setting, we took notes on notepads, we hand-wrote essays and we gave dreaded five-minute talks,” says Claire.
Claire stresses that the sooner you get familiar with the technology you’ll be using to study, the more prepared you’ll feel to manage your subject materials, emails, timetables and enrolment.
“Find out everything you can about university IT systems as soon as possible. Ask the ‘dumb’ questions. Find out about the LMS, your student email and Student Online. Make an appointment or phone Ask La Trobe. Do it early, as soon as you get in.”
5. You’ve developed an adult approach
Perhaps the best part of being a mature age student is that you’re approaching it as an adult. You understand the importance of self-care, you know what you’re capable of, and you’re not afraid to ask for help when you need it.
“Asking for help is absolutely key in getting a degree and, more importantly, decent grades,” says Claire.
And there’s plenty of help available. For example, La Trobe offers comprehensive orientation, personal and study support programs to help you make a smooth transition. Once you start uni, you’ll have free access to services focusing on everything from study skills and disability support, to mentoring and mental health.
With the support of younger peers and knowledgeable staff, and the patience and determination being an adult brings, mastering mature age study is more achievable than you might think.
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