Tired of doing the same work day in day out? Looking for a change, not just of job, but of career? Then returning to education or university as a mature student may be the answer. As more courses move online, and as the Covid-19 crisis has changed professional landscapes forever, there has never been a better time to take stock and consider your options.
The old image of mature students was often of a keen bunch in the front row of the lecture hall, coming over all earnest while their younger course mates sported love bites and a faint smell of booze instead of sensible jumpers, beards and meticulously organised folders. Things are changing, though: the demand for life-long learning and flexible skills means third-level education is now not just for fresh-faced school leavers.
Returning to study requires a major commitment on your part. More than anything you need the support of your nearest and dearest. Study and exams take up time and energy, even though the academic year is short (September to June), with lots of breaks during the year. A recent study of mature students in the UK showed that 30% of students gave up their courses due to a lack of support. So make sure you tell your beloved and the family all about your plans and get them on your side from the start!
It takes time to choose the right course. Think about your strengths, your past experience, your potential. Consult your heart as well as your head. Remember that some courses require a background in certain subjects. Get copies of the prospectuses from the different colleges. Study the course content (which subject areas covered), the mode of study (full-time, part-time, modular or distance) and type of qualification offered (certificate, diploma or degree). Contact the admissions office of the college for details of entry requirements, application procedure, fees, grants, application deadlines, information evenings, etc.
To qualify as a mature student you should be 23 years old on or before 1 January for admission the following autumn. The number of places reserved for mature students on courses varies between institutions and also between different faculties. Depending on the course you choose, competition for places can sometimes be stiff. So it’s always a good idea to do a grounding course before applying; for example, a course on returning to learning, covering such things as note-taking, study techniques and essay writing.