Tips for older students on returning to education

Don’t be put off by titles – the following tips may just change your perceptions of what being a mature student really means.

Do you feel like you’re stuck in a career rut and want to get some new professional qualifications to improve your prospects? Or perhaps you want to take your education to the next level after spending time away due to other commitments?

If your answer is ‘yes’ to either of those questions, chances are you could find yourself as a mature student at college or university.

Remember you’re in good company

‘Mature’ student just means any college student aged 19 or over, which means you can return to education at any age without the fear of not fitting in with your classmates. In fact, around a third of UK students are classified as mature students, so you’re certainly not alone in wanting to take charge of your education.

Use your transferable skills

Being a more mature learner could actually put you at an advantage compared to other students who may not have had as much experience out in the real world.

As FE News puts it, “Course providers welcome the skills, motivation, passion and experience mature students provide. They recognise that older students bring diversity to the course and often embark a course with a more questioning, inquisitive mindset.”

If you’ve been away from education for a while, remember you’ve got a wealth of other life skills and experiences, which you can draw on to achieve academic success.

Remember your motivations

Returning to education is a big decision at any age, and one that it is likely to be driven by your own clearly defined goals, such as aspiring to a new career, or seeking a higher salary. This kind of focused motivation will provide an advantage – through a stronger desire to learn, and to do well.

Consider an Access course

If you want to return to education in order to complete a degree-level qualification such as a Foundation Degree, HNC, HND or similar, you may want to consider an Access course. These are designed to prepare students for Higher Education – particularly students who may not have the traditional qualifications needed to apply, or have been away from education for a while and need help brushing up on certain skills.

Take advantage of funding options

If you have other financial commitments and are worried about the cost of being a mature student, you could be eligible for financial help.

The government offers Advanced Learner Loans for students aged 19 or over to fund all or some of the costs of study a course at Level 3 or above. This includes A Levels, Access to Higher Education, BTEC Extended diploma and NVQ Level 3 or higher.

Additionally, any adult aged 19 and over, who does not already have a level 3 qualification (equivalent to an advanced technical certificate or diploma, or A levels) or higher, can access hundreds of fully funded level 3 courses, as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs. You can find out more here.