If you’re passionate about lifelong learning, or have simply discovered a new area you’d love to become more knowledgeable in, then university might be calling. Regardless of your age or stage, heading back to uni can be a great way to keep your mind (and time) occupied, and it can even provide you with job opportunities as you enter retirement and/or your twilight years (if you choose to utilise your degree in that way).
Whether you know exactly what you’d like to study, or you’re shopping around for the perfect course in the perfect field, we have some pretty handy tips for you.
What we'll cover in this guide:
A mature-aged student refers to a university student aged 21 years or older, which… isn’t very old. At all. Some students choose to start uni at 21 because they’ve taken a few years off after school to work, travel, find the perfect course, or maybe they have personal reasons for not heading straight to university post-school.
However, if you’re reading this article, you likely don’t fit into the above category. In fact, you’re potentially, 10, 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years older than 21.
Universities generally cater towards school-leavers. Their goal is to bring new talent onto their campus, mould them into knowledgeable and highly-employable professionals, and then send them out into the big wide world.
Which means that older students aren’t exactly their target audience when it comes to marketing… or when it comes to developing educational material and/or assessment methods.
Universities are becoming more tech savvy, especially in a post-COVID era. We’re seeing many opting for online-only courses and classes, more technological adoption both inside and outside of the classroom (like e-meeting your educators when you need assistance, rather than meeting them in person), online exams and tests, and more. So if you’re not too comfortable with technology and using it for almost everything, then this is likely a hurdle you’ll have to overcome.
However, no matter what you might struggle with as an older student (whether it’s technology, unfamiliar jargon, receiving peer support, or anything else), you can absolutely mitigate any struggles by simply chatting to your tutors and lecturers. If you let them know what you’re worried about or what you’re struggling with, they’ll likely help you overcome any challenges in ways that best work for you.
This is a hard question, because not every university is perfect for every student! We’d recommend creating a shortlist of universities that seem perfect for you, based on:
The courses available
Do they offer what you’re looking for?
The location of the university
Will it be an inconvenience for you to travel too far? Or maybe you’re keen on exploring a new area of your city and would love to travel a little further for your course?
The experience(s) of your friends and family
Has anyone in your life loved the university they’ve studied at in the past? Do you have any mature-aged friends who have gone back to university in their twilight years?
The university’s ability to cater to your needs
Are they able to provide you with extra educational support if you need it? Do they offer both in-person and online classes so you can opt for your preferred method of learning? Have they educated many other twilight-aged students before?
How will you be paying for your university degree? Will the university cater to that method of payment? How much will your course cost at one university, versus another?
Is the campus easily accessible via public transport? Do they offer on-site parking?
Of course, there are an unlimited number of criteria you’ll want to vet before choosing the perfect university for you, but our points above can be great to consider when starting the process (especially if you’re feeling a little confused about how to start).
I haven’t been to university in what feels like forever (or I haven’t been to university ever)! How do I best prepare for my first semester? Preparation is always key when heading to uni, regardless of your age. Here are some of our top tips for ensuring your first semester is organised and not too overwhelming (or overwhelming at all):
Make sure you understand your timetable
Does your university allow you to choose your own timetable, or do they provide you with a pre-decided timetable before the semester starts? Then, make sure you take note of all your contact (and online) hours so you won’t miss any important classes.
Buy all your textbooks in advance
Most universities have campus stores you can head to to purchase your textbooks. However, if you’re keen on saving a few bucks and are a lover of sustainability, you can opt for second hand books, available to shop via online university and social media marketplaces (like Facebook Marketplace).
Create a study schedule
Heading back to uni involves studying, of course! Make sure you factor some time into your schedule to ensure you can stay on top of all class work, projects and exam study.
Find yourself a decent, working laptop
You’ll absolutely be needing this, and you’ll likely want to take it into classes, too!
Start your pre-reading early
With a first semester back comes pre-readings (although, this isn’t always the case). It can be a great idea to start reading through your textbooks and coursework before the first day, so you can head into your first class feeling confident that you already (kinda) know what this semester’s classes will hold.
Choosing to start university as a twilight-aged student can be such an exciting time! Not only will it provide you with an opportunity to challenge yourself, but it can feel so incredibly empowering to finally get yourself into university if you’ve never been before (or never finished your original course, or never worked within the field you studied).
Our biggest piece of advice? Take things slowly, be patient with yourself, and make sure you communicate clearly with your lecturers, tutors and course coordinators. They’re there to help you, and will no doubt do whatever they can to make your university experience as blissful as possible.
If you’re keen on doing some volunteering as you enter your twilight years? Read this guide.