Written by Anna Gevorgyan
Your first moments at university in a fast-paced city can be terrifying, especially if you come from somewhere far smaller and less diverse. That feeling of nervousness and uncertainty is even greater when you’re a mature student though. You’ve left a secure job behind you and plunged into a new life, but all you can think about to start with is whether you can buy a return ticket home.
I remember the moment when I first walked into my room in halls in central London, an environment that felt a world away from what I was used to at home. However, with time, I came to realize that the mature student experience would be one of the most fun times of my life. Here’s why:
1. You relish the chance to be back in an academic environment
To start with, you’ll probably have occasional panic attacks and doubt whether you should have quit your job and returned to academic life, but over time you’ll realize being back at uni is one of the best experiences in your life.
One of the benefits of being a mature student is you feel more relaxed than your academic peers who are younger, and also have a clearer motivation to guide you in your studies (hopefully). Even if you have no idea what you will do after you’ve finished your degree, take comfort in the fact you’ve been through many situations in your life already and survived.
2. Your extra life experience is both your friend and your enemy
As a mature student, you benefit from a range of experiences which you can carry forward into your new academic life. These experiences can help you a lot, but they also create certain blocks that can entrench your thinking and attitudes.
A valuable tip I received from a friend back home before I started uni was: “Pack an open mind, stop comparing and start observing.” By doing this, I discovered a lot more and learned how to be more resilient.
3. You’re able to understand lectures in a different way
There will be times when you will cry secretly about not understanding a single idea of a professor. It’s normal, so don’t panic. You’ll find a way to deal with it. Those moments occur far less frequently than the times when you will actually understand what your lectures are about because you’re able to apply what’s being taught to reality. It might be because you’ve already worked on a similar project in your working life, or for a particular employer. Whatever the reason, you’ll be far better-equipped than many of your course mates.
4. You’re really good at bonding with your professors and tutors
In contrast to your younger and greener peers, you’ll notice that you bond with your professors and tutors much more easily. It helps that you can talk with them about various concepts in both theory and in practice, and also relate their teaching to your working life.
5. You forgot how amazing student discounts can be
Being a student means having access to a load of discounts and promotions you haven’t been able to claim for ages. London, for example, offers a great range of discounts for students on food, drink, and shopping. You can even claim discounts on transportation, with a student Oyster card, or 16-25 Railcard.
It’s not just London though. No matter where you study, you’ll probably be able to benefit from student discounts for theater, cinema and opera tickets as well as other cultural events. Depending on your circumstances, you may also get a discount rate for a mature student loan, be eligible for mature student funding or some form of tax exemption due to being a student.
6. You’re much better at organizing your time than everyone else
When I was in London, I quickly realized there was a lot, sometimes even too much, going on. Being able to prioritize things was crucial, and is much easier when you’ve already learned to value your time and pick and choose events that will be of interest to you.
Of course, that doesn’t mean your interests might not get refined, with newer exciting ones appearing on your list. Even so, you’re probably well-placed to realize reading a book by the riverside could be a better way to spend your time than an all-night party in your dorm.
7. You’re the King/Queen of networking
Coming to uni with a little bit of extra life experience makes networking and building relationships with people so much easier. Your campus will offer hundreds of events every term for you to potentially get involved in, as well as countless societies and clubs. Some of these may even be exclusively for mature students. After a few weeks, you’ll be stunned how much wider your network of friends and contacts has grown.
8. You’re able to get a really good part-time job
Working while studying is an increasingly popular option, especially in money-draining London. As a mature student, you’re able to work many “serious” jobs that other students don’t have the experience for. If you need some extra money, consider applying for jobs that require extra responsibility. I was able to land a role as an invigilator for another university’s finals and also work in event coordination for an educational company, two roles that are a massive change from the usual bartender/waiter jobs most students have to settle for.
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Lecture image: Nick Case-Leng (Flickr); Reading image: David Morgan (Flickr)