Friday, 30 May 2014

Thinking of becoming a mature student? Go For It!

  • The first and most obvious reason to go back into education is to learn more about what you love. Although I am really happy with the path I am on now, I'm still not 100% certain what I want to be when I grow up... And I'm, erm old! Those decisions you made when you left school at 16 or 18 do not have to define you for the rest of your life. If you have a secret passion, interest or a skill or hobby that you can develop then go for it. We all change, adapt and grow. Education certainly helps you to do this and reach whatever the hell you want to reach for: New heights, The Stars, The Top of the Career Ladder, take your pick! Once you get the taste for learning, you'll never want to stop. My only concern now is there's so much I want to learn. How and when will I ever fit it all in?!

  • There's no time! Yes, I thought the same. If I wasn't a full time veterinary nurse, I was a full time single Mummy. How and when exactly would I go to college or university full time? It just didn't seem possible. But it is, trust me. If you have a full time job, I’m sure with a bit of research into your local adult education centres or colleges you'll be able to find a course that suits you at the evening or weekend. Part timer? I only have to attend college 14 hours a week and I am considered to be a full time student. My university have told me I will only actually attend lectures for 8-10 hours a week. Sure, I am expected to be an independent learner, and use my time to research my work, and NOT watch Jeremy Kyle or This Morning, but you see. It's not as rigid as it may seem. Go to open days and ask the course tutors about what is on offer. You'll be surprised how flexible and accessible things are.

  • Hang on... Where will my kids go? I can't afford extra childcare! How will I pay for my course fees? The only adults that go back to university are fairly well-off... Again, I thought this would be an obstacle for me too. I called the college a week before I was due to start the course to say, although I had been approved for a student finance loan to cover my course fees, there was no way I could afford childcare... Not a problem! They paid for my childcare fees, all I had to do was collect a form from the college and get my Ofsted registered childcare provider to complete it. Simples! I could not believe it, not only was my course covered by student finance, (via a loan that gets written off if I complete my higher education course) but my childcare was paid for by the college. AND; there was more. I was eligible for a hardship bursary because I was a single parent on a low income. I received help with travel and stationary costs. Obviously, everyone's situation is different, and it depends on your individual circumstances, the college or university you wish to attend, the course you are doing and your age. But if you don't inquire, you will never know. That is the one thing I have discovered. There are a variety of ways to fund your adult education, but they're not always advertised. You need to ask. For me university starts in September, and of course, like the majority of British students, I have had to take out a loan to pay for my tuition fees. I realise that getting into debt, during these harsh economical times isn't ideal. However a student-loan is the most affordable loan you'll ever take out. And it is funding a career you'll love and a better future for you and your family. Personally, I would much rather invest in my personal development than a new car or kitchen. But that's just me. The main point to take away, is, if it's finance or funding that is holding you back, it really doesn't have to. Contact your local college or adult education service to see what you're entitled to and check out Student Loans Company

  • You'll meet new people! The friends I have made since September are wonderful, and I am certain that we'll remain friends for years to come. My social life since starting my course has improved dramatically. It has been so nice to meet like-minded people with similar interests to me. Adult education generally attracts people who genuinely want to learn and get the most out of the course, and because you're on the same course, you'll have similar interests. Not many of my friends outside of college are interested in literature and reading, other than 50 Shades... (Sorry guys!) So to be able to share this love with friends is wonderful. You also get to know people that you ordinarily, wouldn't necessarily get to know in your everyday life. I've met some really interesting characters that, I simply would not have encountered otherwise.

  • It's scary! Yes it is. Having myself not been in a classroom setting for nearly 20 years I was nervous, I felt too old and uneducated. I needn't have worried. Students varied in age on my course from 20 years old to 79 years old! There's a mixed range of abilities too, but the setting is very inclusive. I quickly got talking to my fellow students, and the tutors put everyone at ease with their approach. Being an adult student, you are treated very differently to those days back at school. Lessons are informal and interactive and you come away wanting more. A thirst for knowledge is generated. I actually began looking forward to my further research, lessons and assignments.

If you're considering going back into education my advice would be to do it! Or at least look into it before you write it off as impossible. It is, without doubt, one of the best decisions I have ever made. When I began last September, I wasn't sure that it was the right move for me. My Mum was hospitalised, having gruelling chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant for Myeloma. I was on my own with the kids and already felt that I had no time to myself. I was exhausted. I kind of got swept along with the process and just thought I'd see where it would take me, not hopeful that I'd stick it out with everything else that was going on. Some how I did stick it out, I even managed excellent grades, I made new friends, and in a way I had more time for myself. For the few hours a week that I am at colege, I'm not Mum, I'm just me, doing something for myself, and it's great. Yet it will also benefit my little Ls in the long term, so there is no parental guilt associated with it, like there is so often when you spend time on yourself.

So, if you have a passion that you want to explore, go for it. If you're longing for a new career, take those first steps in getting it. Set your goal and find a way of achieving it. It's not always easy, but it's also not always as difficult as you think. Go for it, and keep me posted on your plans.