Thursday 14 March 2013

Studying after 30 – how to make your dream of studying further a reality

Although it may seem university is only for those who are 21 or under, these days this is far from the case, as more and more people are applying for higher education courses at any stage of their life. Mature students choose to study for a variety of reasons, for example they may want to change their career, improve their job prospects or just learn more about a subject they really enjoy.
You should not feel put off from applying for a higher education course because you think it’s too late or you won’t fit in. Universities and colleges always welcome mature undergraduates, as they are usually enthusiastic and often have a lot to contribute in class because of their extensive life skills and experience.
Since mature students are valued at higher education institutions, course requirements will generally be quite flexible and a wide range of qualifications will be accepted.

Do I need formal qualifications?
Some mature students will have traditional qualifications such as a Matric certificate with university exemption, a diploma or bachelor’s degree and some will not. Likewise, some institutions will take other forms of qualifications and experience into consideration when you apply for registration.
If you have not had any formal education for a few years or more, you may want to look into attending an access or bridging course at your local college or university to help refresh your study skills. This will aid with your preparation in returning to full-time study and get the qualifications you need for your entry requirements.
An access course will particularly develop your skills and confidence in written and oral communication, numeracy, information processing, and the effective use of information technology and other resources.
Although there are no standard entry requirements for mature students, exact requirements will vary from institution to institution, and you will have to provide evidence of your ability to study at an acceptable level, or evidence of some relevant experience to your chosen course. This is so the institution can rest assured that you will be able to cope with the academic demands of the course.
It’s a good idea to get in touch directly with the admissions tutors for the course or degree you are considering applying to, and ask to make an appointment with them so you can talk about your position before filling out your formal application. They may ask you to provide a CV, listing your employment history and academic achievements.

Will I be able to cope with all the studying?
Any university or college that accepts a mature student on to one of their courses believes they have what it takes to cope with the workload. This will be due to your access course or other achievements you’ve made that are equivalent to studying at higher education level.

Undertaking a degree requires you to:
* Organise your time effectively
* Take comprehensive notes
* Read material, such as text books, journal papers, etc.
* Research and analyse data, and make conclusions
* Write essays, reports and other assignments
* Use a computer, the internet or other forms of IT.

It’s a good idea to find out how much reading, writing, studying and practical work might be involved in a course before submitting your application for it. You'll be studying it for the next few years, so you really want to make sure you'll actually enjoy it.

Family and friends
It’s important that your family and friends are prepared for the changes you will be making in your life so you can study in higher education. This is likely to mean changes in some of your relationships, to a certain extent. You will need to talk to those that will be affected most about what arrangements you can make to overcome any difficulties during your studies.

These plans should be finalised and in place ready for when you begin your course, to help keep any potential disruption to your friends and family to a minimum. If you do not make suitable adjustments, you may become stressed by any problems that arise, or may even have to take time out of your course to sort out these personal issues.

Other considerations
You will also have to organise in advance any financial, childcare and/or travel arrangements. It’s also a good idea to make a timetable of your lectures, seminars, etc. and how you will fit in your studying around this. Try to work out how much time you will need to spend on campus each day, including time spent in the library and at social activities.
Although attending a university or college as a mature student may seem daunting, remember that you will meet lots of new people and make friends from different backgrounds. This will enhance your experience as a student, as will studying with people who have similar interests and who encounter the same challenges. They will be there to provide mutual support when things get tough, and they will value the support and advice you can provide too.

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