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Studying as a mature student

Expert guidance from Study Advice at the University of Reading

Useful links for mature students

Introduction

Mature students typically come to university with lots of questions - about study, about how they will manage their university commitments, and about the future. This page collates some of the most frequently asked questions. If you have a question which is not here, or the answer given does not cover your concerns, do feel free to ask someone: your academic tutor, course tutor, or a Study Adviser, for instance.

Academic concerns

How do I know if I am achieving the required academic standard?

The feedback you receive from your tutors, particularly on assessed work will give you a clear indication of the standard you are reaching, and of any areas you may need to work on. You will find an explanation of the University marking scheme in your programme handbook. Don't be surprised if your work falls in the 50-68 range, which may seem lower than you have been used to - this is the most common range of marks and means you are doing fine. If you're unsure about what your feedback means, or how to respond to it, arrange to meet with your course tutor or academic tutor, or come and have a chat with a Study Adviser.

Where do I get help with referencing?

Your programme handbook should be the first place you look. This will contain information on how your department wants you to reference (including the particular referencing style that they want you to use) and how to avoid plagiarism - you can find it on Blackboard. You'll also have an opportunity to submit your work to Turnitin before your final submission. Make sure you know how to get the most out of Turnitin: it is an originality checker and not a plagiarism detector. The Study Advisers and your Academic Liaison Librarian can also provide advice and guides on referencing. Don't assume that referencing at university will be the same as anything you've done previously: for instance, most A-level and Access courses use a simplified version of Harvard referencing that may not be appropriate for your level of study or subject.

It worries me that I will not be as smart as the other people on my course or be able to complete it easily.

The University only accepts students that they believe will be able to complete their course successfully. It might not be an easy process but there are plenty of people and resources available to you (see above). Mature students make excellent students because they are generally focused and dedicated and bring with them a whole wealth of experience that tutors value. You may feel that you will take a long time to adjust to studying at a higher level but most mature students surprise themselves and adjust very quickly. Mature students often report how helpful it has been to talk to other students - both mature and younger - and find out that they are all having similar successes and difficulties!

What's the workload like?

Workload will depend on the course you are enrolled onto. Some courses require students to attend classes from 09:00 until 17:00 most days whereas some have relatively few contact hours of teaching per week, but expect to do a lot of independent study. In either case you will be required to study independently for some time each week. It will be up to you to manage your time and ensure that you get your work in on time even though you may have other commitments outside of university. For instance, it is common that you receive details of assignments at the start of term but they are not due until the end of term - and then you might find that they are all due for submission on the same date. If you foresee any problems talk to your tutor as soon as you can - it's really important to keep them updated.

Is there any help with IT training alongside our studies?

We have an IT Helpdesk based in the Library if you have queries about getting connected to wifi, printing etc. They can also advise on training documents on various Microsoft Office programs which you can access online.

I get nervous around exams - what help is there for me?

You won't be the only nervous student on campus at exam time! Schools and Departments often offer revision classes and exam preparation sessions. The Study Advice team offer video tutorials, study guides, seminars and individual advice sessions at exam time. Various people including Student Wellbeing, RUSU and the Chaplaincy offer sessions to help with overcoming anxiety and relaxation techniques. If you find that you experience serious anxiety around exam time you should consider making an appointment to see someone from Student Wellbeing.

How flexible is my timetable in relation to childcare commitments?

Committing yourself to a course of study is like committing yourself to a full-time job. Inevitably there will be some times when other commitments clash with study times or when you really need to spend some extra time that you hadn't planned for on finishing your essays, or preparing for your seminars. It's a good idea to think ahead about the provisions you could make for these times. Once you have got to know some other mature students, you may be able to share half term childcare and school runs if necessary. If there is an unavoidable problem, you will need to speak to your Programme Director or academic tutor. However you may need to accept that teaching sessions at 9 in the morning or 5 in the afternoon are sometimes unavoidable.

I have studied previously: can I be accredited for this?

It may be possible to carry forward credits for prior learning and/or prior experiential learning (i.e. learning without a recognised educational qualification) into your studies at Reading. This will be at the discretion of your Department. If you wish to claim accreditation for prior learning (APL) or prior experiential learning (APEL), it is best to discuss this with the admissions tutor in your School or Department as soon as possible: either before starting your course or in the first few weeks.

Personal concerns

I am concerned about fitting in with other students as I don't find it easy making friends.

Give yourself time - there will be plenty of opportunities. There are various clubs, societies and events, some organised by your department and some by the Students' Union. The Mature Students' Society organise informal meet-ups and run an active Facebook Group where students can chat about their interests and concerns - contact them at maturestudents@rusu.co.uk. Most mature students also make friends with younger students on their course - they're much friendlier than they look!

Will I be the only older person on my course?

It's possible but more likely that there will be more than one mature student on any course. The proportion of mature students entering the University in past years has been 12% (1 in 8) so you will not be alone.

How do I keep going for three years?

You will need to employ a combination of hard work, careful time management and making use of the support and opportunities available to you here at Reading. Set yourself realistic and achievable targets, and enjoy the new experiences you will find. Remember how hard you have worked to get there, and give yourself the time and resources you deserve to do well.

Is there any advice available on finance?

You can get advice on financial support either from the Student Financial Support team, who are based in the Carrington Building or from the Money Doctors in the Hub at the Students' Union.

Employment

I will graduate aged 40+ - will I have any chances of finding a job?

New legislation came into force in 2006 that makes it illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of age in most sectors. Employability skills will be embedded in your studying. As a student you will have access to the Careers, Placement and Experience Centre who will be able to give you information, advice and guidance regarding employment. All students benefit from activities that can add value to their CVs, so consider enrolling for the RED Award which rewards extra-curricular training and activities.

Are there any part-time jobs available during term-time?

Yes. the Careers Centre runs a Job Shop and this has details on various positions, including term-time work. You should also look at the local papers for vacancies. You are allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week if you are undertaking a full-time course, but do make sure you have enough time to achieve the results your deserve in your studies.