Education should be embraced by all, and everyone should have the opportunity to learn. They should be encouraged and inspired to reach their potential. Mature students may just need a bit more encouragement and reassurance, they can achieve, and because they are generally more focused, they know why they are studying and what they want to achieve. They have drive; they just need some support to help them learn the skills required for academic success.
I’m preparing for my first induction session of the 2022/23 Academic Year and updating this post from a couple of years ago on an earlier site. As ever, going into the classroom after the summer break is like the first time all over again. I get so nervous as I prepare to meet my students for the first time. Its a new year, full of opportunities and potential, and the first year really post-Covid, as well as moving to hybrid working, we’re going to have hybrid learning – lots of changes and uncertainty. However, as I reflect on the unknowns of the year ahead – what will these students be like, will we get on, will they like me … they’re undoubtedly experiencing similar emotions. Some may also be worried about returning to classroom study. Being a mature student brings along additional worries just because you’re older and its been a while since they’ve been in the classroom, they may not have as much confidence.
My class of inductees will be enrolling on professional courses and some have not been in the classroom for over 20 years. If I’m nervous about something I do annually, how must they be feeling? Returning to education as an adult is a daunting step – you doubt yourself and question what are you doing. I’m here to tell you to believe in yourself; you can do this. You have lots of life experience to draw upon to support your learning; the academic skills you will learn and develop over time.
There are some key points you should consider to get you started:
(a) Skills improve over time; review and adapt your work. Take on board the feedback you receive from your tutors and lecturers. Ask for help. And believe in yourself, you will improve.
(b) It can take time for you to find your feet. You are adjusting to a whole new experience. There are a lot of things to learn and habits to get used to. Be kind to yourself; we are guilty of expecting ourselves to be able to do everything almost immediately. My experience indicates it can take 2-3 months to settle into academic life. We can be so hard on ourselves so you need to give yourself the permission and space to learn. Also, talk to your classmates – you never know, you might find out that they’re feeling the same way and therefore you can support each other.
(c) At the beginning you are unlikely to know what support is available to you, but I would expect that your institution will provide academic support to you; ranging from study guides to teams set up to provide you with 1-1 support. Find out what is available to you and take advantage of that. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, its not a sign of weakness and the sooner you ask for help, the sooner you can be on your way, making progress and enjoying this wonderful academic journey you are embarking on.
(d) We don’t always like asking someone for help, but your tutors/lecturers should want to see you succeed – so ask them for help. I maybe can’t help you with subject specific questions but you can pose general questions in the comments section about study skills/study techniques etc.
(e) Mature students actually get better, their results improve over time. So don’t give up. As I said above, take on board the feedback, develop your skills and boost your marks/grades and your confidence and enjoy the journey. I studied as a mature student myself and loved the experience. I believe I got more out of it than had I gone to university straight from school – so embrace the opportunities presented.
(f) Its normal to doubt yourself but persevere. As a child I was always told I was a failure; I wasn’t the first in my family to go to university, but I was the first to succeed. I believed going to university was beyond me – I now have an Honours Degree in Modern Languages, 2 postgraduate Degrees in HRM and 2 teaching degrees. If I can do this – so can you.
I’m not saying academic life is easy, but imagine how good it will feel when you have worked hard on an assessment, applied your learning and used all your skills. You know you have produced a good piece of work; how will you feel when you get your work back with the word “PASS” written at the top? Keep a hold of that feeling to encourage you to keep going.
I want to produce study skills/learning blogs that are going to help and guide struggling students. What would you like to see covered? What are the areas you are struggling with?