There are all kinds of reasons why you might not have pursued further education as a young adult. Maybe you needed to get a job fast in order to earn money, or perhaps it just wasn’t the right direction for your life at the time. Whatever your reason, you might think that the path of further education is permanently closed if you miss that one window of opportunity, but that’s not true at all.
The truth is that further education is open to everyone at all times. It’s slightly more difficult to get into university when you’re older, but it’s by no means impossible, and there are plenty of tools available to help you make this leap. We’ve assembled a guide on how you can get into further education as an adult so that this process can be as painless and uncomplicated as possible.
Unfortunately, university courses aren’t free, so you will need to find some way to fund your course. If you’re based in the UK, student loans are readily available if you’ve never applied to university before, so this is a course you could consider. If, however, you don’t want to get a student loan, you could consider an alternative course of funding, such as an unsecured personal loan or even a dip into your savings. University courses can be expensive, though, so if possible, we would recommend a loan, simply because this method spreads what can otherwise be a prohibitive cost across multiple repayments.
Decide on your course
There are hundreds upon hundreds of different options when it comes to studying for a degree, so it’s important to make sure that the course you choose is definitely the one you’re going to want to see through to completion. There will be multiple factors involved in your decision; career viability might be important to you, or you could simply be aiming to study for the inherent pleasure of learning. Think about your personal skill set and how it could translate to a university degree. Alternatively, consider a skill you’ve always wanted to learn and research whether there’s a degree in that field.
Consider your academic qualifications
Many degree courses require existing academic qualifications in order to admit you to the program. These qualifications will vary wildly from course to course; some merely require you to complete an access course, while others will need A-level qualifications in specific subjects. There’s often some leeway when it comes to admitting mature students, though, so you should contact the university you’re researching to see if the requirements could be waived or altered. You’d be surprised how often this is actually the case, so don’t be shy!
Think about a part-time course
If you’re currently earning, you may not want to say goodbye to your income. University can be time-consuming; studying for tests or coursework can often eat up what little free time you have when you’re working, and lecture timings can interfere with your shifts or your office hours. As such, you may need to give up your job or switch to part-time work if your current position allows you to do so. While you’ll see reduced income as a result, the time you’ll save will be well worth it, allowing you to focus on uni while still managing to make money.
Ask for help when applying for your course
There are lots of outlets available that will help mature students to apply for university, so you’re never alone. Make sure you research both your university options and their application processes extensively, and don’t be afraid to contact the university to ask them for help with the application. They will receive plenty of mature student applications, so they’ll know how to walk you through the process. Don’t be ashamed if you’re intimidated by the process, either; it may have been some time since you last engaged with education, and there may be lots of elements of the process you don’t recognise any more.
Do some external reading
If you get accepted onto your course, congratulations – you’ve taken that all-important first step towards becoming a mature student! Your workload is likely to increase exponentially when the course starts, so the best thing you can do is to try and get ahead. Ask your course tutors or professors if there’s any reading you can do prior to starting the course. This will stand you in good stead when the course begins in earnest, and it could also give you an advantage in specific modules, so it’s always worth doing. If you’re passionate about your subject – and you should be – then the reading probably won’t even feel like work!
Draw up a budget
Budgeting is just as critical for university students as it is for adults in full-time employment – maybe even more so. As such, once you know what your expenses will be and what your work situation will look like, you’ll need to draw up a budget to manage your finances. Again, don’t be ashamed to look to family or friends to help you if they’re willing; there’s no reason that age should be an impediment to accessing the same sort of financial help as many students do when they’re first setting out to study. Write down your expenses and your income, and make sure you know how much you’re going to have left over each month, because university can be expensive.
This has been our beginner’s guide on how you can become a mature student and study at university as an adult. Even if it’s initially intimidating, studying as an adult can be immensely rewarding and enriching, and it can help you switch careers if you’re unhappy in your current job, too. There are a wealth of options and pathways available for mature students, so whatever you do, don’t think that student life “isn’t for you” – if it’s something you want, start looking into how you can get it!