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Studying as a mature student

Expert guidance from Study Advice at the University of Reading

Introduction

Mature students at the University of Reading could be any age from 22-80. They all have different life experiences, educational backgrounds and previous employments. So everyone will have their own experience of studying here. These are a few examples of stories from mature students who have returned to study at the University of Reading.

Julia (Law student)

"Coming to university as a Mature Student has been both challenging and rewarding, I have met some interesting and pleasant people, which I did not have the opportunity to encounter when in full-time employment.

For a Mature Student, university life can be isolating, this could be because of the lack of other Mature Students, so it is important to be flexible and accessible, otherwise, as I found, university life can be a very lonely one. It is also important to work with others, regardless of the age gap, as this can be beneficial to the learning experience.

Each Mature Student has different needs and my situation was certainly different to the next mature student, this was something I was not aware of when I started at Reading University.

Looking back on my first year I believe that part of the success as a Mature Student is to be flexible and try to make the most of what could be an experience which will change your life. Students are all similar when it comes to studying regardless of their age and gender; we all want the success because failure is not an option".

Richard (Agriculture student)

"To give up a stable, secure job, home and family to undertake a degree requires a certain amount of dedication and a great deal of hard work, acceptance of financial hardship and a temporarily lower standard of living.

Having started my degree at the age of 34, I wasn't sure quite what to expect, especially as I had never considered myself to be anything other than average academically. I thought, somewhat naively, that 18 years working in agriculture was enough grounding for a BSc degree course in the subject. I now liken it to the equivalent of a bricklayer trying to become an architect in the space of three short years. The course was mainly biology, mathematically and computer orientated - rather daunting for an ex-cowman! However, the help and tuition that I received in all academic and other areas have been exceptional. The staff were always prepared to help and encourage me and my fellow students were invaluable when it came to such areas as computers, email and the Internet. As a result, the use of computer software - standard and specialist - is now second nature to me, and I can even get by with biochemistry and statistics.

The all-night sessions in front of the computer, the nerves before my first presentation, and the sheer horror of biochemistry are all obstacles which, at the time, seemed insurmountable. You need to be absolutely one hundred per cent sure that this is what you want out of life. To say it has been easy would be untrue; it is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but definitely the most rewarding.

My only regret is that I didn't do it much earlier".

Diane (Modern Languages student, part-time)

"Even though you will not have taken the decision lightly to embark on a programme of study, whether for a one-term course or a degree, the amount of time and work needed to satisfactorily complete it can seem overwhelming. However much you wish it were possible, there can be no more than 24 hours in a day, and every minute becomes 'quality time'. But never lose touch with the fact that you have chosen your particular course because you have an interest in the subject and so it should also be an enjoyable experience.

Sometimes, 'enjoyment' is not the appropriate word to use when your essay is due in on Monday and there is a busy family weekend beforehand, but it is surprising how much you can achieve undisturbed in a couple of hours on a Sunday morning before the rest of the house is awake.

As a Mature Student, you have a lot of advantages on which to draw: several, possibly many, years of experience of the workplace and often more self-discipline and financial stability than those less mature. Of modern historical events you have vivid memories, whereas most students can only read about the impact they had on the world before they were born.

To cope with the demands of the day job, domesticity and family, it helps to develop a weekly plan to prioritise your tasks in the limited time available. Grasp opportunities for concurrent activity like listening to audiotapes whilst driving to work or having relevant reading material to hand whilst waiting for the children outside school or for the potatoes to boil. It is frustrating simply not to be able to dedicate enough time to essential reading, let alone background material.

But be assured that this is a problem encountered by all students, whatever their age.

Remember that the younger ones simply have different pressures!"