The term Freshers Week might conjure up images of hedonistic teenagers, revelling in their first taste of freedom after being cut loose from the proverbial apron strings. But university is by no means restricted to those fresh out of sixth form. In fact, according to UCAS figures, around a third of undergraduates enrolling at HE institutions are mature students.
That said, when it comes to higher education, ‘mature’ is no euphemism for old: the term applies to anyone from 21 to pensionable age – and they are far from a single homogenous group.
From those who left school at 16 and feel they haven’t yet realised their true potential to those with extensive career experience looking to further develop their skill set or take a new direction – as well as graduates hoping to return to higher education to study for a Masters or PhD – the mature student population is a richly diverse and integral part of the student community.
“Universities and further education colleges that offer higher education provision value mature students for the skills, motivations and life experiences that they bring with them,” it states in the NUS report Never Too Late to Learn: mature Students in Higher Education.
“Many mature students have had extensive careers and come to university with transferable experience of planning their time, organising people and projects, working in groups and presenting to audiences. This experience is beneficial for all students and helps to shape the culture of learning at any institution.”
Yet despite the call for students with that additional work and life experience, the prospect of plunging into the world of academia can be a daunting one for many adults. For some, it’s the fear of not fitting in and being the oldest student in town or concerns around coping with the demands of academic work after being out of education for a few years; for others it’s the pressure of juggling study with work and family commitments. To help allay those fears, we asked five mature students to share their tips and survival strategies.