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Life as a Mature Student

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      05.09.2009 15:14
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      Don't give up!

      I am 20 years old, and considering going back to college soon to do another course to get me into university. With most people going to college starting at the age of 16, I would be considered a mature student now, which I find a little unfair as I am only young, and still wanting to learn as much as the younsters.

      I started college straight after leaving high school at 16, I was doing my A Levels, and I stayed in college right up until I was 19. Completed 6 A Levels and now want to go back to do a follow on course in teaching which will lead me into more experience ready for University. I was never really one for messing around in class, I saw college as somewhere I wanted to be, not somewhere I was forced to be. If I didn't want to be there, I wouldn't have gone. But, in my class were some idiots!

      My first year of college was spent in Widnes, before I moved to Lancaster, and in my English A Level class were alot of young people like myself, straight out of high school. They were my age, and had got into the college for free, not a penny had to be spent on the course. Now most people in college want to learn, they're there to take advantage of the education system while they are still young enough to get the courses for free. But there was a group of people in the class, mentioning no names of course, who just wanted to mess around.

      There were around 6 of them, and to be honest outside of the class I considered them friends, but inside the class I wanted to learn. Now from this your probably thinking, oh geez what a geek, one of those with her head in her books. But not at all, I like to go out and drink, I like to have fun, and homework was always the last thing on my agenda. As soon as I left the classroom I was acting like a prat, and I liked to have a laugh whilst in the classroom too, but only when it was appropriate.

      These people didn't see the boundries, they messed around, they talked all through the class, they didn't do the work, they didn't read the books, they didn't want to do anything other than make posters for the walls every lesson, yeah that's fun some times, and doing big presentations of the work is fun, and you can make them a good laugh whilst still getting the work done. But they didn't want to be there, they showed up late, disrupted the class and generally made a nuisance of themselves.

      Every lesson was dominated by the teacher shouting at the group like we were in year 7 of high school, like they didn't know how to behave, which took away from our actual lessons, I felt sorry for our teacher mainly!

      But amonst my class were two "mature" students, my friend Peter, and another lady Amanda. These two students were paying a lot of money to do the class, around £150, plus money for the exams. And they were there because they wanted and needed the qualifications to get into university at the end of the year, not so they could take the year after high school messing around in class with their friends, and getting out of having to get a job.

      Needless the say, the English group dwindled by the end of the year, and most of the idiots had dropped out and gone on the dole or whatever else, got jobs in McDonalds and decided to "take a year out", until they matured enough to actually want to do the work.

      I am now hesitant to go back to college as a mature student because of this! If I am to go to college now to do the course I want to do, I have to find £500, which they won't accept in monthly installments, and has to be paid upfront, before I even start the course. Now my course may be seen as one for the lazy, the blonde girls who are leaving school and want to be "a nursey nurse" because they think it's an easy job. (Before you start, I am not saying anybody who is a nursery nurse thinks that, but I know from experience with friends of mine that that is the reason some of the girls go on these courses!), it's a teaching assistant course, which teaches you the basic skills to be a teacher, so that you can go and get a job as an assistant in a school, I want to be a teacher, a full blown teacher in the future, preferably in a college teaching A Levels and this is the first step I want to take into it. But I know that there will be people on the course who mess around, who don't want to be there, and who are only there because they want a free course and a year off from having to work full time.

      Been a mature student is difficult, I know this from my friends experiences, and from what I have seen first hand in my own college. You will ALWAYS have prats in the class who don't want to be there, who will mess around and disrupt the class so much that you dread going. And when you are paying for your course, it's unfair. But, it is something I am willing to cope with. My friends went to the teachers after class and asked for extra work which they may have missed out on because of the idiots in the class. They did the extra work at home, and they studied hard, and got on with their work, and they did pass, it just takes dedication.

      I know this review doesn't cover every aspect of becoming a mature student there are many others which I will have to overcome, finding the money, childcare (this will be something I have to overcome when I have a child anyway!), trying to pay bills when I can't work full time as I'm a full time student, and trying to make friends as a mature student in the world of teenagers. But I am trying to tell anybody out there who is thinking of becoming a mature student, not to let the stupid teenagers who do mess around in class put you off. I was a teenager who wanted to learn, and you can guarentee the ones who don't want to be there and mess around in class will rarely make it past the first part of the term, and will more than likely have left by the Christmas holidays.

      If not, it's simple to ask your tutor for extra work, or to go over things again, get their email address so you can ask any questions you didn't get to ask in class at home, and if needs be, complain about the idiots in the class to the head of faculty. Been a student is great no matter what age you are, it's fun, and exciting, and I adore it. I wouldn't give up my student years for the world, I had such fun there as well as getting some excellent qualifications which will help me through life. Don't give up, your never too old to go back to college! :)

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        21.02.2009 20:58
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        Fulfill That Drean Job

        I took the plunge several years ago and decided to go back into full-time education. I have always had a burning desire to fulfil my dream of becoming a nurse and to be honest I was in the very enviable position of having a husband in a full-time job earning good money and who was able to support me, and who in addition was very supportive of my dream. We had also managed to save up a bit of money too so in all honesty we never really struggled too much financially. I wont say that it was easy to achieve my goal, however if you want something badly enough trust me you will find a way. For those people who are worried about taking the plunge and the financial implications of a full-time course do not despair. You will need to take a look at the individual institution that you wish to study at as there are often subsidies and bursaries available which will help to support you. I worked at the weekends in John Lewis to earn a few extra pounds too. Nursing is fully subsidised by the Scottish office. They pay all fees for the teaching university and pay each student a reasonable monthly bursary. (I would advise looking on the CATCH website which will give up-to-date information on the latest rates).There may also be the option of studying part-time which will allow you to work pretty much full-time as well as gaining other qualifications. Another means available is taking out student loans which need only be paid back when you are eventually working and making good money, however this is not an option I would necessarily recommend.

        I had previously worked for a major retailer as a manager for several years and was earning very good money (much more than I am now). However I was getting fed up working long hours and for what. To line the pockets of a multi national company and with very little thanks. Then there was the extras that were expected of me attending alarm call-outs, having to go on various training courses at a moments notice and lets face it the pressure was on regards promotion if you refused. I actually used to go home and cry at night and I'm sure that it was all becoming detrimental to my health and furthermore caused a lot of friction with my home life. I sat down with my then fiance (hubby now) one night who bless his heart stuck by me through all those horrid times and to be honest was the one who was really instrumental in facilitating my decision to leave my job. He handed me an envelope which had the CATCH details in it which is the initial application to submit for nurse training in Scotland. I can remember actually smiling genuinely for the first time in months at that point. Needless to say I didn't need to be asked twice and put my application in within a week. Anyway the long and short of it was that I received a place and I have never looked back.

        I had enrolled on a three year course at Glasgow Caledonian University after which I would have my prized diploma in nursing. I will however not bore you with course details as this after all is about experiences as a mature student. My class consisted of 25 individuals. They ranged in age from 17 years up to 55 years old and although predominantly female there were a few males as well. I was 27 at the time. The average age of the class being around 20. I did not feel intimidated at all to be honest. I was just relishing the challenge ahead. Unfortunately over time though and due to human nature we all tended to gravitate towards individuals who had similar interests to our own and within a few weeks I had already made some sound like-minded friends. I was glad to note that they were of mixed ages and mixed backgrounds. Everyone was in the same boat with the ultimate goal of achieving and I think that the diverse age ranges and life experiences was a valuable asset within the friendship group that I became a part of. Don't get me wrong though there are always people that you will disagree with and whom you take a dislike to however you treat people with respect and never let it show that you can't stand them. This again is where maturity prevails. (and the ability to bite your tongue also helps!!!!)

        In terms of the workload I found this aspect quite challenging. It had been a good ten years since I had been at school and the undergraduate level of writing was quite an obstacle to overcome. The university however offered study skills and essay writing courses and workshops so I signed up for a few of these and was very surprised at how quickly I managed to get myself to the required standard of academic writing. Most of the seminars and tutorials demanded that you worked in groups, problem-based learning as they called it, and individually each member had to provide information and present to the rest of the class. I think that this was an area I had a definite advantage over some of the younger members of the group due to my previous life experiences. I have always been a very confident person and I found this particularly easy to do. Everyone had to take it in turns and I found that there was a vast difference between those who were older and the younger members however it is fair to say that we all improved significantly over the three year period.

        On practice placement I found that my age definitely stood me in good stead for the things that I was to see and also on a practical level. Don't get me wrong walking into my first placement was an extremely frightening and intimidating and exciting experience, all kinds of emotions rolled into one. You really do not know what you will be faced with on a day to day basis. Nursing for the most part is all about communication not only with your patients but the multi-disciplinary team as a whole. Again I found this quite easy to do as it was an area in which I was experienced having to deal with all sorts of people in the past. I believe that there was a bit of bullying going on with some of the younger people in my course owing perhaps to their naivety and life inexperience. I do not condone bullying and I certainly feel that being older lets people know where they stand with you and where you stand with them. You are also better equipped to deal with people who try and put one over on you. In addition being a mature student tends to command a certain degree of respect. I used to coach some of the younger girls on how to handle themselves which I thought was a necessary evil as I couldnt stand the thought of them being picked on.

        The starting age for pre-registration nursing is 17 years of age. I am glad that I didn't go into it at this age due to seeing some absolutely devastating things, carrying out upsetting procedures and in dealing with the emotive subject of death and dying. I am glad that i had lived a bit before dealing with these aspects. There were a few leavers and I would recommend that you need to have a very mature outlook to go into this profession.

        I used to feel quite flattered too when some of the younger members of my class used to come to me for advice and guidance and would also tell me their problems. It was nice to know that I could have been of some help to them. I suppose I became mummy to the group. My son was a baby when I started my course and I found this aspect hard juggling uni, placements and daycare however became proficient at planning and organising I overcame most obstacles. It was frustrating on occasion trying to change shifts as some of the wards were less than accommodating however I turned into a bit of a negotiator and never really had that many problems. Our family time became more special and we fiercely protected the time that we had to spend together. I did feel guilty on occasion that i was neglecting my son however these moments were few and far between.

        There was a fair amount of essays and exams to write and study for. I would strongly suggest that you use the free time that they delegate in uni to these ends as your time when you have family commitments can get swallowed up with other activities and to the detriment of your course. I would also suggest that you go along to all the study support groups on offer as they will facilitate learning.

        If you are thinking of going back to full-time education go for it and trust me you will enjoy every minute of it. Expanding your horizons and knowledge is a wonderful thing. I am now seriously thinking about doing a masters in nursing in the not to near future with the aim of teaching other potential student nurses. Education is such a wonderful thing and I would recommend it to all with age being no barrier. Ok there are a lot of down-sides too but hey nothing worth having in life is ever easy to achieve. What would be the point in doing it otherwise. I am now happy that I have been allowed into the lives of some interesting and wonderful people and feel that on a daily basis I achieve and help others and it is so rewarding and satisfying. This is why I was put on this earth and I will dedicate my life to doing it. I would highly recommend nursing as a career too!!!Its made me happy and the person i am today.

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          16.08.2007 16:07
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          You really are only as old as you feel! Go get an education if get the chance!

          When I had my son (twenty years ago now, where does the time go to?) I made the decision that I wanted to stay at home with him until he went to school. This was fine until he was about three and I realised he was a sociable little chap and needed more than just his mum and I was ready do something other than play with a toddler all day. So I made the decision that since I had no decent qualifications I would look into going into further education

          Having a dearth of O levels but a few years of experience in catering I decided I wanted to work in an office as the hours were more suited to coping with the needs of a child. Norwich City College was on my doorstep and a quick peruse of their prospectus (bearing this was before we all had the internet) I found that they offered an HND in Business and Finance. Just what I was looking for: a good basic grounding in all things office related. I sent off my application form and very soon was offered an interview, as, as I knew, I did not have the requisite entry qualifications. Luckily I was interviewed by an understanding lady who had been in the same situation as myself and she offered me a place that day.

          Come September I was very nervous, something I think my son may have picked up on, as when I dropped him off at nursery he wailed and screamed and had a death grip on my hair. Having had a couple of visits to the nursery I knew he would soon settle and be happy there, but it left me in a right old tizzy as I made my way to the business block. Because it was a business course I did not wear the traditional torn jeans and scabby T-shirt of a student, but some smart slacks and a polo jumper. You can imagine how I felt as a respectable dressed 27 year old, walking into a room full of hulking denim clad teenagers

          Luckily the next day I was back into my comfy jeans and scruffy tops and soon became one of the crowd. Although there was about 7 years between my contempories and me and I was the only woman on my course with a child this never became an issue. Possibly this was because my house was halfway between the college and the nearest Chinese takeaway and the friends I made who lived on campus soon realised that if they descended en masse I would provide them with plates and cutlery in return for a spoonful or two from each plate! I had a dishwasher so this was no hardship for me and a great way to meet up with fellow students as being a single mother I could not easily go to any study get-togethers (or booze ups) in the college after hours

          I was very lucky as I was one of the last few who were able to benefit from the grant system, so not only were my tuition fees paid for but I also got a grant, not much, but enough that I could, with a great deal of scrimping afford to buy a tiny terraced house. Nowadays that would not be possible, not only do people have to pay their own fees and receive no grant but house prices have sky-rocketed out of the reach of normal people’s funds. My son and I were extremely hard up, but very happy. He benefited immensely from being at the college nursery, which was staffed by the loveliest girls you could wish for and the nursery course students would do placements there too, so every adult working really wanted to be there, resulting a great atmosphere. If you could imagine the most perfect nursery you could wish for and then add some, you’d be close as to how good that place was

          Although initially nervous about being the old f*rt on the course, any worries soon disappeared as I got to know the others I studied with and because the majority were in halls of residence on site and many away from home for the first time we soon became close. The work itself was not too much of a problem and any time I was stuck there was a college lecturer available to point me in the right direction. Fortunately we all wanted to do well and pass the HND, so we all had a good attitude towards the actual coursework and exams we had to get through, but we also partied hard. I can remember some great college balls where we all dressed up to the nines. The first ball was my favourite, as when I arrived to meet up for the coach carrying us to the hotel, all the young lads had hired Moss Bros tuxes which were covered in little bits of white fluff. My mother instinct took over and I brushed them all down before letting them take any more photos. They looked so sweet and I treasure some photos of line-ups of gawky young chaps looking a little uncomfortable, but very proud and rows of teenage girls more confident in their sparkling finery all set against the delightful backdrop of student accommodation breezeblocks

          Towards the end of the second (final) year my now close friends and I were sat one evening reminiscing back on the months of hard work we had all put in and the fun we had had. My son had gone to bed and been read his bedtime story by one of the gang and we got to chatting about work habits. Now, it had become a habit that my friends would fetch their takeaways and arrive around half past six and stay until around midnight. They did their homework straight after college, ate their tea, came to me and then went back to bed, I explained that when they did their homework I was feeding and bathing my son. At this point someone suddenly asked when I did my homework. “Well, after you guys go home” was my simple reply. Cue stunned silence as they realised I had been doing the course on about half the sleep they had!

          So for two years, I worked hard and played hard, but a mature student, especially with a dependent I was far more committed to completing the course than I would have been when I was younger. I look back on those two years with very happy memories. At 27 I was still young enough to manage on less sleep than I should, young enough to have a great time, but old enough to know the work still has to be done, preferably before the fun starts

          I worked for a few years, then went back again to top my HND to a degree at the same place, but as ever places change and although I really enjoyed going back again, nothing could be beat those first two years with such a great crowd of people. A sad thought to me is that my parents paid taxes, I paid taxes both before my college days and am still working and paying taxes now, and my son pays taxes, but if he wants to get a degree he will have to pay for it all himself

          If you can possibly afford to go back into education as a mature student I can thoroughly recommend it. You will have the common sense to keep up with the work and being around younger people will give you a whole new lease of life and different outlook on things

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            23.07.2004 18:07
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            I decided to go back to University as a full time student almost exactly two years ago, after being made redundant for the second time in under a year. My choice of Uni was made for me, as there was only one within a reasonable distance of my home offering the course I wanted to take, but if you?re considering returning to study as a mature student, there are some points you might like to consider first. Firstly, are you eligible for University? The higher-profile Uni?s demand very high A Level passes for admittance, and popular courses, such as Law, also require good grades. However, some of the ?New? universities (which used to be Poly?s) will take students with very low A level grades, and even if you left school with only a handful of GCE?s don?t despair! Most Universities will consider students with little or no qualifications as long as they have sufficient experience in their chosen field. And if all else fails, most colleges offer A levels which can be completed in one year, or a one year ?access? course, which is specifically designed for prospective University students as an introduction to Higher Education. Alternatively, some Universities offer foundation years ? usually in the science departments ? for which they will also accept students with little or no prior qualifications. Probably the most important issue to make sure about before you sign up for a course is if you can actually afford to return to full time study. It?s important to do the maths, and make sure you consider every eventuality. There were people on my course who passed the first year with flying colours, but then couldn?t afford to come back for the second year. Of course, there are student loans and other grants (depending on circumstances) which could help you financially whilst you study. However, a student loan on its own is barely e
            nough to cover rent for the majority of students, most find that they have to rely on family for further support, and/or get a part time job too. If you can?t survive without working full time, don?t even think about signing up for full time study, you won?t finish the course? Instead you can consider the other study options available to you. For instance, many University courses can be taken part time during the daytime or in the evenings, so could be combined with working full or part time. Request a prospectus or telephone your nearest University for further information. Of course, the Open University also offer some excellent courses which can be studied for on a module by module basis. These can be completed more or less in your own time (although there are time constraints, they are not as demanding as traditional study) and so long as you gain enough credits you?ll still come out with a degree at the end of it. However, self motivation and discipline are essential if you decide to go the Open University route! However, maturity itself, coupled with the self motivation and discipline that usually come with it are a real advantage for the mature student. The life-experience we possess often makes University life much easier for us than for our fellow students who are fresh from college or 6th form. We are usually used to getting on with our work without constant supervision, which is something that people who haven?t spent years working or bringing up a family don?t always take to easily. Not that I?m saying that as a mature student you?ll immediately breeze through your course, if you?re not used to study any more then it can be a daunting task to get back into note taking and swotting for exams again. However, learning at Uni is not really all that different from learning new skills anywhere, whether that?s learning a new procedure at work or practi
            cing for your driving test! The more you practice the better you should become! Universities also assign personal tutors to assist students with any academic problems or issues they may have. I?d recommend that you use you personal tutor as much as possible, that is what they are there for, after all! A good personal tutor can make your time at University much easier, especially if decide you?ve chosen the wrong course, and want to change, or something similar. They?re usually absolutely brimming with help and advice, and can make your time at Uni much, much easier. Don?t ignore your personal tutor and think that as you?re a grown up you can cope on your own, their help and assistance is often invaluable. Of course, if you?ve made the decision to return to study, and all you need to do now is decide which Universities and courses to apply to, then there are a few things that you need to consider before making your application. Some mature students are confined to a Uni that?s close to home, as I was, but if distance is no object to you, then it?s essential to research your preferred Universities. There are some Uni?s that for whatever reason appeal more to young students, whilst others have a much higher percentage of mature students. For example, I study at the University of Luton, which I believe has one of the highest percentages of mature students in the country. If a Uni?s prospectus doesn?t mention mature students, be wary. Although you might be perfectly happy being the only ?oldie? in a class of eighteen and nineteen year olds, personally I wouldn?t and prefer the mixture of ages and experiences you get from a class of mixed-age students. If you have children, then there are some Uni?s out there that provide childcare (although they may not always have vacancies). Otherwise, you obviously need to consider where your child
            ren can go whilst you study. Don?t ever be tempted to take them to class ? one lady used to bring her little boy to one of my classes, and eventually had to be asked to remove him, as his screaming meant that nobody had a possibility of learning anything! If you?re moving away from home to study, then most Uni?s offer guaranteed places in Halls to the majority of 1st year students. However, student halls are usually filled with high spirited youngsters who love their late night parties, which might make things difficult if you like the quiet life. You might find lodgings or a private rental suit your way of life better, and to be honest school leavers probably need the security of halls more anyway. Also, life in a Hall of Residence is usually pretty basic, with a small bedroom come study, and shared facilities. If you?ve lived alone for a while, as many mature students have, then the lack of home comforts and privacy can be very demanding. There is one thing I have picked up in my time at Uni, which I believe is the golden rule of successfully fitting in as a mature student. What?s that? You might well ask. Well, that?s simply to remember that you are just the same as all of the other students there. You are all there to learn, and hopefully graduate. You?re not a failure because you?ve come to study later in life, but nor does your life experience make you superior to the school and college leavers on your course, either! I?ve witnessed mature students being patronizing and condescending towards younger students, only to find that when it came to an issue that they needed help with, it was slow in coming? Your fellow students are probably going to be your most valuable resource at University, don?t waste them! Still, most mature students fit right in with everyone else on the course, and age or experience really isn?t an issue. Although it can
            sometimes be difficult if you have to be the ?adult? if you?re working with students who are being childish, or not pulling their weight (and I?m talking about both school leavers and mature students, here). University is such a mixing pot of ages, races and sexualities anyway that you really won?t stick out as much as you might think you would! It?s difficult when you?re a little older and (usually) more confident to take a step back and not take the lead in class discussions, but it won?t make you any friends if your fellow students think you?re a know-it-all! Though, having said that, at the beginning of your first semester at University, when everybody is new and nervous, your confidence can be invaluable in allowing you to kick off discussions or answer questions when nobody else dares! Moderation is the key, don?t sit in silence, but make sure others can get a word in too! The main thing to remember is that as a mature student, you?re in a better position than your younger fellows because you?ve already experienced lots of new, strange experiences. Most of them will be fresh out of school or college and pretty much out of their depth in their new surroundings. Whilst you are probably well used to taking personal responsibility and being treated as an adult, they will more than likely still have to learn these skills. I realise that I?ve concentrated on personal issues here, rather than how to study, because I honestly believe that the vast majority of mature students already have ample reading, writing and note-taking skills. We do it every day, after all, even if we don?t realise it. If you do find that you?re struggling, your personal tutor can help you learn better, more efficient ways to learn and study, anyway. Be friendly, be polite, work hard and treat everybody else as your equal and you?ll be fine. Promise! Enjoy University, they?re su
            pposed to be the best years of your life, after all.

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              16.04.2003 04:50
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              Ive never managed to actually stick at anything for very long. I have a CV as long as my arm because I get bored in jobs really quickly. Although Ive travelled a lot and had loads of interesting experiences, I always felt that something was missing. I knew deep down what it was, it just took me until last year to finally admit it to myself. I felt I'd missed out not going to university. Which is how last September, aged 27, I found myself armed with freshly sharpened pencils and a new satchel and heading back to school. Going to university as a mature student has been one of the biggest and scariest experiences of my life and I just wanted to share my thoughts because I really wish that I had had someone to tell me it was going to be alright when I started applying to university. If reading this helps just one person who is undecided about becoming a mature student to make the decision then I shall be delighted. For several years I had sent off for the university application forms and then conveniently forgotten about them until it was too late to apply. It wasnt that I didnt want to go, I desperately did, but the idea of UNIVERSITY left me horror struck with fear. I was very lucky because I received a lot of support and encouragement from my family and my boyfriend, and without them I don?t think I would have ever actually applied. I applied to six establishments in a quite haphazard manner, I was working full time and really didnt have the time or the inclination to go visiting universities. With hindsight, I wish I had, so my advice would be to make time to actually see the place where you are going to be spending a great deal of your time for the next few years. I had never counted on being rejected from any of them; I always thought that universities were willing to welcome mature students with open arms. This I found was a very naïve outlook. Mature students get judged on merits and criteria just
              as every other applicant does, so its very important to fill your application form in carefully and thoughtfully. When I received my first rejection, I cried. It made me feel absolutely worthless, but yet again the support of my family got me through it. One rejection letter I received was incredibly nasty and basically told me in no uncertain terms that I was too old to be considered. I was also rejected for one establishment because I had applied to study French and although I had been living in France for several years, my A-Level in French was at a poor grade so I was instantly and unceremoniously dismissed as a candidate without even being given the chance to prove myself. Just as I?d given up all hope, I was accepted to all 3 of my final choices. The university I had had my heart set on had rejected me, so I had to make quite a difficult choice but I think it was the right one in the end. On my first day at university I was terrified. I still hadnt been to visit it because I had been so busy finishing my job and trying (fairly unsuccessfully) to sort out my finances and find a place to live. So my first memories of university life include wandering around terrified whilst trying to appear outwardly calm, cool and collected. I dont think I fooled anyone. My biggest fear was that I was going to be the oldest person there and that no one would speak to me for the next 3 years. That seems quite laughable now because there were loads of other mature students, but at the time I was stepping into the unknown. Having a group of other mature students has been brilliant because we have provided a mini support network for each other, but no one treats us any differently, although I think if we suddenly decided to embark on drinking binges like 'proper students' it would be met with a few raised eyebrows!! My university have been excellent in providing support for my needs and those of other mature students. I didnt even
              realise until January that there was a Student Support team available, but I would advise anyone embarking on mature student life to seek out their university Student Support at the earliest possible opportunity. Having support of any kind is really important and my Student Support team have provided me with all kinds of useful (and some admittedly quite useless) information. I dont live in Halls of Residence and they have provided me a great deal of information about benefits I can receive and where to go in the future for help. Some universities have really good mature student facilities with on line forums and social events. We are working on getting a more structured mature student support group at my uni, but its still quite a young establishment and of course these things take time. For me, money (or lack of) has been a huge hurdle. Both my boyfriend and I are students and so we live on our student grants, having long since spent any savings we might have had. I tried to continue working full time but it was only a matter of weeks before I found myself a gibbering wreck! I came out of that experience a wiser (but poorer) person. To go from having a well paid job and plenty of money to being, as my brother kindly terms it 'student scum' is quite an eye opener. The funniest thing I have found is when my family send me food parcels (always gratefully received) they always seem to contain 'student food' - Im now a Pot Noodle connoisseur! Apparently when you start to gain an education you lose the ability to cook 'proper food.' Ive really loved studying and I cant believe how much Ive learned. Writing my first essay was horrible, but the sense of achievement when I handed it in was enormous. I have had plenty of down times and times when Ive felt I couldnt cope or that I was the only person in the world who didnt understand what the lecturer was talking about, but Im learning to play up my strengths and play do
              wn my weaknesses and just like everybody else, I get by. It has been a massive learning curve in every aspect, from academic learning to learning about myself (sorry if that sounds cheesy, but its true!) Ive discovered a side of me I never knew existed and a resilience Im very proud of. I would recommend a return to education to anyone. It is a struggle, but its worth it and hopefully when I finally achieve my degree, I will be able to look forward to finding a job that will be a challenge to me. * Thank you for reading this op and indulging me in my ramblings. I would like to dedicate it to my Godmother who died last month. My going to university meant so much to her and she was so proud of me. Her memory will provide me with the dedication to see it through to the end and when I finally get my degree, I will feel like although she can?t be with me she will be smiling down on me. *

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                10.09.2001 20:49
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                ==== Why I’m a mature student ==== I’m not stupid. I know some of you are bound to disagree, but as someone has already said “There are two sides to every argument – mine, and the wrong one.” so ner. But saying that, I didn’t get the A level results I wanted, or needed, to go to university. Granted, they were probably the results I deserved, seeing as I was quite lazy at school and didn’t do much work. To this day, I don’t know if that was a good or a bad thing. For a start, I wasn’t even sure whether university was something I wanted to do. The career department in our school was equipped to deal with one thing and one thing only, and that was getting everyone into university. If you didn’t want to get into university, then our school practically refused to help. I also know now that if I’d fluked the results to get into university, chances are, with my laziness, I’d have failed too many exams and got kicked out quite soon. So, did I want to go to university, or was I pushed into thinking I was by the school, or the fact that all my friends were likely to go? I wasn’t even certain what I wanted to do with my life, and my UCCA (or UCAS as it’s now known) form was a list of five different degrees all at the same university. So, I went to work. Eventually, I joined Royal Mail, and spent the next few years doing a dull, but relatively well paid job. I enjoyed most of my time there, making some good friends and participating in some social and sporting events. Eventually though, it became apparent that I was going nowhere, and I’d always had that nagging feeling that I should be doing something I enjoyed that interested me as well as tested me, instead of reading people’s mail all day long. I decided that I wanted to have a career in the I.T. industry, and for 99% of the interesting jobs in that field, I’d need a degree.
                ==== How I became a mature student ==== So, taking the bull by the horns, I applied for a place on one of the Access courses at my local college. I was reliably informed by the interviewer that with my one A level and good GCSE passes, obtaining a place was simply a matter of my saying “Yes” as she offered me the place there and then. I didn’t want to leave work, however, and through a stroke of good fortune (the department head was leaving, and granted my application for part-time status, whereas the incoming head had already told me if it was his decision, I wouldn’t get it) I managed to obtain part time hours that would work well with my college timetable. There were a few different Access courses at my college, and while I chose the “Maths and Computers” one, there were ones in “English” and “History” as well, I believe. Again, I enjoyed my single year of this course, and did very well, thank you very much (I missed out on the all time top marks because I made a few silly mistakes in one of my exams). This enabled me to progress into my chosen degree at my local university. (As much as I would have liked to have gone to a university further afield, this wasn’t financially viable as I’d already decided to do the whole thing on my own without help from anyone) ==== Once I got to university ==== My degree of choice was BSc (Hons) Computer Science. For me, it would be a five year degree (Foundation year, two years of the “proper” degree, a year out followed by final year) and while I didn’t think the foundation year was necessary for me, it was compulsory. Settling into university was a mixed bag for me. Certainly the getting up for lectures and tutorials was easy from my time in the real world. The harder part was getting used to the teaching styles of the lecturers. Some were very good, and some were downright po
                or. Another point I found hard to deal with was a lot of the time it wasn’t very clear what was actually expected of you. A levels and GCSEs had always made it very clear what they expected from their answers, but some of the coursework and exams set by the staff were exceedingly vague in their requirements. However, after the first term, I found I had gotten to grips with most aspects of student life. ==== Should you expect to be treated differently as a mature student? ==== I know I did. Not from other students – I didn’t go around blowing my own trumpet about how old I was (“I’m 21, you know”), but I expected to be given more “time of day” from the staff and lecturers if I ever went to them with a problem. Well, the first two years were a disaster – my Advisor of Studies (you are allocated a staff member who is supposed to help you with any problems you have, and I had two in two years due to retirements etc.) was useless and treated me like an 11 year old, never mind an 18 year old. Now, I’m sure this is just my department in my university, and not true of all universities, but meetings were cancelled at last minute, sometimes with no contact to myself, I was fobbed off with lame excuses and the help I got was generally poor. I even complained to the head of the department about both my ongoing problem at the time with a lecturer and my problems with my advisor of studies. Again, he treated me more like a child than an adult. Now is a different story though, with an AoS who is exceedingly helpful with lots of advice and suggestions. At the same time, university life wasn’t the same as I’d heard from my friends when they were at university around half a dozen years before me. It was all down to age. Sure, I made some friends, but apart from nipping to the pub the odd time after lectures, I didn’t really do much socialising with them. I didn’t ha
                ve anything in common with them, apart from the degree we were doing. I remember once we were talking about the special editions of the Star Wars movies that had just been released. All my classmates were excited about seeing it in the cinema, and asked me if I had seen it. “Yes” was my reply, “in 1977 when it was released”. Silence. “I wasn’t born then”, piped up one of the girls around the table. Oh dear. I did find myself more dedicated in attending all classes and tutorials than my younger friends. Part of this was due to the fact I needed to pay attention as I’d been out of the learning loop for a while, and part of it was because I knew what failing was like, and it wasn’t something I wanted to happen again. ==== Is being a mature student for you? ==== Well, I can’t answer that, because I don’t know you. I know, at the end of the day, it was right for me, even though I can’t wait to leave university and get out into the world again. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it, and I needed the degree to have the career I wanted. There are lots of things you have to take into account – are you prepared to give up your job? Examine the reasons carefully for doing a degree – is it for job prospects? Is it simply to have a degree? You’re bored, and can’t think of anything else to do? You do realise that you’ll have to give up work, if you’re employed? This means that your mortgage (if you have one) is at risk and your income will be severely limited for the duration of the course. You might find the course so tough, you spend a lot of your free time working on it, thus cutting out on any part time work. The only other thing I can offer as advice is that if you are considering returning to education, try and find out as much as you can about financial incentives for mature students because I’m sur
                e there were things on offer that I never knew about. If you can do it, talk to your local education authority (LEA), or even a finance officer of your local university.

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                  16.07.2001 18:02
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                  I left school with no formal qualifications, and married young. So I can say in all honesty that I have been limited to learning at the “university of life”! I have spent many years caring for family and house and garden etc ;-) In recent months though my thoughts have turned towards doing something for myself for a change. So when I went to a summer fete in a nearby village set in the grounds of a large house, I picked up a leaflet about residential courses. I had a chat with my sister, who, like me is at a point in life where she too wanted to treat herself to something useful. We looked at the leaflet and decided jointly to go for a weekend course on Calligraphy. The course was held in the very same large house (converted to a college) where the summer fete was held. It is called Pendrell Hall and is in South Staffordshire. A large Victorian house set in its own lovely grounds. Our course began on a Friday, and we had to check in at 5 pm, after taking our things to our room we then had a three course dinner in the large dining room. The food was surprisingly good, and what a treat to think there would be no cooking for the whole weekend. After dinner we went to our lecture with our tutor, then a drink in the small bar and off to our room to get settled in. We had a twin room with en suite bathroom, very clean and comfortable. Saturday at 8.30 we had breakfast, buffet style with lots of choice, followed by our course work. That set the pace for the whole weekend, course work broken by lovely meals (3 a day), coffee breaks too! We both found it very relaxing and rewarding, the other students were friendly, and although we were absolute beginners our tutor was superb and put us at our ease immediately. The great thing about the whole weekend was the fact we could devote ourselves to the subject, without the distractions of home. We could stroll around the gardens during break and meal times, and chat to our fellow students.
                  The food was very nice indeed and they catered for vegetarians too. There are small colleges like this scattered over England and Wales, and some are set in breathtaking scenery, although I am not certain if Scotland has any (sorry). The courses can be short or last two weeks, dependent on your chosen subject. You do not have to stay overnight, although if you have to travel some distance it makes sense to have a room as it is so much more relaxing not to have to drive every day. It is obviously cheaper to go as a day student, but you still get your lunch and your dinner in the evening. Prices vary, and will depend on the College you attend (some are very grand), the subject of the course and whether accommodation is taken or not. I paid around £90, and I thought this was good value. So much nicer than a health farm! It is sometimes possible for partners/friends of students to attend with them if they want to do private study, the cost would be just for accomodation and meals. This facility is dependant on there being enough space available after the residential students have been accomodated. Footnote: Pendrell Hall is currently in the process of registering as a learning provider for ILA's (Individual Learning Accounts), which may mean that some students can gets discounts on the cost of courses. Computer literacy skills and some other courses may qualify for an 80% discount. Others may qualify for a 20% discount. To find out more about ILA's visit this web site www.my-ila.com, or telephone 0800 072 5678. The URL for Residential Adult College info is www.aredu.org.uk/arca.htm

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                    08.06.2001 03:21
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                    It’s that time of year again, the time when all college tutors start to smile instead of grimace, and the entire college building takes on an new air of ... expectancy? When you feel like you can’t go on ... (hey, - that sounds like the words from a song .... that’s because it the words from a song ... see, college life does teach you something .. ;-) The way you feel; Tired; You go to sleep, - if you’re lucky, - when your head hits the pillow - that’ll be around two or three in the morning, - as you just *had* to finish that last politics essay in time for the end of term ... can’t let the tutors down, they’ve been there for you all year and if, like me you’ve come ‘the long was round’ - (via GSVQ/NVQ level three), then the tutors have been your ‘adopted family’ for the past two years, they laughed with you and cried with you (only they never tell you that ) - it’s just that you come to know what a great bunch of real people they all are - well most of them anyway ;-] ) Where was I ... oh yes, how you feel ... Over-wrought, that’s a ‘given.’ You have ‘been there, done that (if you’re really unlucky/slow to catch on - you’ll have done the remedial too) and you were lucky enough to WIN the T-shirt in yon anti-drugs campaign/competition at the start of the year .-- the start of the year ... where did that year go ...? Stressed out, - you are most certainly “Stressed Out”, with a capital SO - Somewhat OOOFFHyyyyHOOOLLL :-) ( please do not take this last acronym too seriously folks as I much prefer U’s or better yet, VUs ;-& ) Ahh, yes, now we come to a real cracker of an ‘observation’ ; You almost certainly feel like nervous breakdown number - 3 - is - just - coming - round - - the - corner ... then-again-next-week-it- will soon
                    be all over .... dead and gone... (uh-ah song words again .. I never did get round to writing that essay suggesting that song-writing should be considered a valid form of social statement ... and included in the curriculum ... .’literature’ would have been sooo much more exciting writing about the relative merits of Diane Warren) I will be eternally grateful to whatever ‘guiding hand’ led me to take up Social Sciences at the time I did. I could not have done this course without a computer and to even think of doing so much as half of the course work - in class - by *hand* - Sometimes fate can be kind. The college I have been attending, - 'Anniesland College' in Glasgow, has elected to change course next year ... ( Pun most definitely intended there folks ) and there will be fewer essays (there could only be fewer essays says I ) anyway ... to cut a long story short .. oh boy did I happen to do my HNC Social Sciences in the best year or what? ! As of next term - August 2001 - there will be fewer essays, yes, BUT there will be *closed book* - in class *hand written* course work on which the student will be assessed; on top of all that - there will be NO Merits! Now, ---- Talking about Merits . Speaking for myself ... At first, I was not at all interested in gaining Merits - it’s like the little extra that is like the star we used to get on our books when I was at school - and that was not yesterday - I can tell you Anyway - here was I telling everyone who would listen - tutors included -- that I was not interested in getting Merits as I was not going to ‘Uni’ and therefore did not ‘need’ them. - That was until I gained my first one - My first merit - that is ! It was like somebody had said to me “ You have a brain - its ‘official’ and we recognise that fact by bestowing on you this Merit” R
                    ecognition I suppose - we all need it -or so I’ve been told - - or rather read for myself. I hope the ‘newbies’ settle in quickly - I know I did - I was lucky in both my timing and my selection of college. If anyone has read this far in my crazy meanderings - and you are even considering giving college - a go, - maybe you haven’t a single qualification to your name - maybe you have not worked for twenty years - maybe you have little or no self-esteem - and you are thinking - maybe just maybe - No - make that definitely! Definitely give returning to college - going to college for the first time - whatever - give it a go - DO It I was all of the above - and here I am just two years later - I’ll not say I’m brilliant - far from it - but I’ve learned SOO much in the past 24 months - and not just about social science either ! I’ve found out things in and about me that I never dreamed I had ( and I’m seeing the doctor about them ASAP ;-7 ) Seriously, what I’m saying here is - Go ...... Do You too will be all of the above .... Tired - over-wrought - stressed out - heading for nervous breakdowns (plural) and even totally convinced you have made the wrong decision - I know I have been all of these ... but it’s worth it OK, the tutors help ‘oh boy do they help ‘ - lean on them - that’s what they are there for - As for you partners - they have to ‘help’ to - but this can be in little ways - like to support when you’re down and all that entails - but - if you’re on your own - all the more reason for saying yes to college life. You will enjoy it - its tough sometimes and some don’t stay the course - ( that’s where that comes from then ... mmm ) But - and its a big ‘BUTT’ - when you reach the end (and you can do it I know you can) when you reach the end of the course - you’ll like yourself a d@rn sight more than before ... Why? You’ll gain a deeper understanding of people and life in general and obtain a *certain knowledge* that no matter what - you are not alone and there are others out there just like you who think the way you do - who Feel like you do, and they have been through what you have been through. Bottom Line - this is a feeling that no-one can take away from you - you’ve earned it and by God you deserve it and you are worth it Just you - It belongs to you and you alone. It’s yours forever. ENJOY That’s All She Wrote. ( for now ) Glasgow Girl

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                      05.06.2001 19:50
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                      Most students, when they graduate say "Never again" and dash through the university gates to a life of relaxation, money, responsibility and whatever is thrown at them. For a series of very complex motives, I decided at the age of 50 to embark on a part time masters degree as an external student at Glasgow University. The academic subject was not something particularly challenging, it was more an extension of something I was already involved in. The masters was a way of formalising my training, and proof of competence. The key issue for me has been one of the vast amount of time it has eaten into. I am now in my second year, and have found that normal life has been put on hold for that period. There have been assignment deadlines, projects, weeks away from home on residential modules and so on. The great thing about being a part time mature student is that a. you are probably not broke b. you don't have to go out pulling the women (or men). c. you don't have to worry about accommadation d.Using your student card to get into things cheap There is a high price to pay. I have lost my weekends, as that is the best time for assignmments. I have more or less abandoned television and talking to my family, as I am spending an hour or two with the project and assignments most evenings. One of the strange things is that you may be more mature than your teachers, and it is also possible that you may have more practical expertise in the area than they have. Unlike undergraduate school, its ok to tell them that they don't know what they are talking about It's been very good for keep up with technology, as much of the course information is web based. Trying to do the course without kit of your own is pretty much impossible. It means that as a mature student, you are into the same things as the new graduates that you might be recruiting. Its also hard keeping up a full time job. If th
                      e work is synergistic, then that is fine. I found that when synergy existed, which was not often, it was superb, as you had a better grasp of mattters than everyone else. During the course I have had to learn some new tricks and skills which are probably more use to me than the degree. I have made load of contacts. We are spread out around the country, and although we dont see each other frequently, I have set up an email discussion group, and emails buzz around most of the time. I have four months to go now until the submission of my final project. I hope I make the deadline, as all my assignments have been completed, and are ok. I am more obsessional about the assingments than I ever was as an undergraduate. It has been quite expensive, and overall I think I have spent between £5-6k to cover fees, material, travel, accom, computing etc. All of this has been paid out of my own pocket over two years. I look forward to having the letters, even if no one else cares update added May 2002: I got the degree last December, and the graduation ceremony was great. It's a real buzz for a parent to have their university aged child to their graduation ceremony. Six months down the line, it really has not been worth the effort. It did a lot of disruptive things to my life, which I never repaired. It has not helped my working life one iota, and there has not been any more money. In fact, it made me into a threat rather than an expert.

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                        23.04.2001 00:39
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                        What have I done? This was my first thought on the day my course started. I was so scared that I thought I might not be able to go through with it. I was going into college with all those youngsters, and I was a 47 year old grandmother. What shall I wear? Now this might not seem an important consideration, but I didn't want to look as though I thought I was a teenager again, and on the other hand, I didn't want to look like somebody's granny (which I am). Anyway, I eventually settled on a pair of casual trousers and a jumper, (nothing too conspicous.) Walking into the front doors at the college was easier than I thought. I searched the notice boards and found the room numbers for my course, 'Holistic Medicine'. I eventually found the correct room and walked in feeling self-conscious and a bit afraid. I imagined that everyone would be young and bright and I would be the odd one out. Fortunately that wasn't the case. Within minutes I got talking to a couple of people who felt exactly the way I did and I started to realise that they had all had the same misgivings that morning. That was the really big hurdle over with. I soon changed my life around to make time for study, but I still had general household jobs to do including maintenance, decorating and gardening. I live in my own home on my own, and I had to be really careful with my money. I was only earning a small part time wage now and I still had the same expenses. I stopped smoking, stopped drinking, didn't buy clothes or shoes unless it was essential. Life was quite hard but I didn't have the time to complain about it. I applied for a grant and got my course paid for but my local authority refused to give me an educational maintenance grant. This has all been worth it as I embarked on a brand new career at the age of 49. I have some wonderful new skills to add to my other qualifications. I had previously only ever studied acedemic subjects and
                        I'd never learned any real skills. This course of study has opened up the gateway to a completely new way of life for me. If you are a mature person thinking about going back to full time education then go ahead and do it. The whole experience has been worthwhile and satisfying for me. It has changed my life.

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                          15.11.2000 06:13
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                          The thought of returning to ‘school’ as a new student poses a serious obstacle as you get older. Also, the longer you have been out of education, the more significant the problem seems. It therefore helps if you have been studying in a further education environment because then you will at least feel that you are used to learning again. It will give you that little bit of extra confidence to apply. In reality, the main thing stopping ‘wrinklies’ applying is a lack of confidence combined with entering into the unknown! I entered university as a mature student and, even though I had been studying part time at a further education college, it is still quite a step to go to university. You wonder whether you will cope with the work, you wonder whether you will fit in, you wonder if you will cope financially, in fact, you wonder about a lot of things. All of these things seem very important at the time but, with the good fortune of hindsight, I can tell you that they are not. I had left school without any formal qualifications and after a few years enjoying myself, I decided it was time to get some qualifications. I took two ‘O’ levels part time and obtained mathematics and physics at grade B. Nothing particularly stellar there. I then decided to go on to A-level mathematics at night school. This was a total disaster. Night school is REALLY hard when you are young and have any form of social life. On top of this, the teacher was awful. He seemed to ignore the fact that about half of the class hadn’t done A-level before and tended to concentrate on the people who had either failed or didn’t get the grade they needed at the last exam. The course was all over the place with things being brought in that we hadn’t yet covered. The drop-out rate was quite high in the first term, with me amongst them. At this point in time, I was unemployed. I therefore decided to teach myself A-level mathematics o
                          ver the summer. After all, I still had the text books from my failed attempt at night school. I decided that if I didn’t have a job at the end of the summer I would attend a technical college part time. It was free for unemployed people – hopefully it still is but who knows with this government. Looking for a job proved to be a great catch 22 situation. Whoever I applied to either said I didn’t have the qualifications or I didn’t have the experience. When asked how I can get the experience, they would state you need the qualifications! So September arrived and I started on some courses that I though would be interesting. I decided on mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. I found I was actually quite good at all this sort of stuff and passed all the exams to gain my TEC qualifications. The job side didn’t pick up though because now I was qualified but didn’t have any practical experience! I therefore decided to look at university. As I didn’t have A-levels it was recommended that I undertake a preliminary year of study. This year was primarily aimed at people who didn’t have the necessary grades to start on an undergraduate course. I remember there were prospective medical and dentistry students on the courses trying to improve their science grades and many others. Quite a few were mature students as well undergoing their first full-time education for quite a few years. If any mature people are considering university, these type of courses offer an excellent introduction into university education and I would highly recommend them. When I was starting out there were only a handful of universities offering such courses. I went to Cardiff university which was one of the few. I hope these types of courses are still running because they are really very useful. Not only are they good, but they actually give you a much better start on the undergraduate course. You are already used to
                          the university style of teaching. When I did join the great throng of people on my undergraduate course, I was quite relaxed and new what was happening. Many of the new students spent most of the first term worrying about whether they would cope with this new style of teaching whereas I and my friends simply breezed through. There is so much to do at university. Any age difference soon becomes irrelevant as everybody struggles to get through the exams. I made many friends at university and we are still in touch. We shared flats together, got outrageously drunk together, and just generally had a really good time. It is not something you should miss out on if you get the chance. Being a mature student also offers some advantages – you are probably doing a course that you are genuinely interested in for a start. A small but significant number of new students find they are actually doing a course they don’t like. Some because they misunderstood what they had signed up for, some because it just seemed like the next logical step. When I attended university I was able to get a small but useful grant but I still left with a £1200 overdraft. I was not unusual. This government has now done away with even that small grant. I can only think that this is a major disincentive to mature students. It is bad enough entering at 19 and generating a huge overdraft. But entering at 25 or 30 or even older and being faced with such a debt is a serious obstacle. That said, though, university is a great experience and whilst I think I would have had serious doubts in today’s system, I would probably have gone for it. I can very honestly say, it would be worth it.

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                            03.11.2000 05:11

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                            For the first term, no for the whole four years really, I kept expecting someone to come to the front of the lecture theatre and call me out to explain that there'd been a horrible mistake and they didn't want me at their university any more. I'd sit in lectures or wander from building to building grinning stupidly and knowing I was in the right place. I left school with a crop of failed A levels under my arm and went of to do other things - engineering, because science was the way of the future. I eventually got it that I wasn't cut out for that sort of caper and finding myself out of work and in no hurry to get into it again took myself off to university. I'd never thought I was stupid, but according to whoever marked my A levels I was. In all fairness, if memory serves whoever marked my A levels was absolutely justified in considering me stupid. But I wasn't. And now it's official. I'd reccommend anyone and everyone to go to university. Not just to get a degree but to do and to learn all those other things along the way - like living life to the full. OK so when your younger class mates finally stop running away from you they keep helping you across the road and asking you who the Queen is, but they always seem quite friendly as they do. One thing that this big school hasn't done is stop me rambling on interminably. Two final pieces of advice that were given to me just before I started: Do it. Enjoy it.

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                            01.11.2000 16:15
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                            "It's too late" "I'm too old" "I'll fail" - I remember saying when asked why I hadn't applied to study for a degree, which I had always hoped to do. I still hear the same comments from friends, clever and capable people whom are very able to achieve if they set their minds on it and stop dwelling on thees pre-conceptions of higher study. One of the best decision I ever made was to open my mind again and apply to the Open University for a place on their degree programme - this proved to be a really valuable decision.. I actually left school at sixteen, and started work with day-release study for two years(ONC), I then spent two more years studying at evening classes(A-Levels). Seventeen years later I decided that if I didn't take the plunge I never would - I enrolled with the Open University and started the degree I seemed fated not to do, and not knowing if I would sink or swim! I was thirty-four then, just married again with boys of eight and six and a baby of three months. I had given up full-time work to re-locate to Newcastle with my husband for a year, and have my baby- the degree I decided at that time would keep me busy! I started off doing a year on Victorian England (A102 Arts foundation)which appealed to me ,as I love the arts.In february '92 I took the bull by the horns and started writing..Unfortunately I had no computer, which meant lengthy hand-writing stints, and no internet resourses. I put together my best offering, kissed the envelope before dropping it in the letter box,and waited with baited breath, expecting the worst.In my mind I visualised my assignment being returned with corrections, suggested alterations etc, such was the faith in my own academic expertise - I was convinced that my essay would not be up to scratch and receive a low mark accordingly. How suprised I was when I opened my first assignment returned with a mark of 73 tog
                            ether with encouraging comments and praise! It was at this point that I started to believe in myself and my abilities. The first year of study was hard but enjoyable, at first I felt out of sorts at tutorials, finding myself 'back at school' so to speak felt somewhat strange, and I was reluctant to fully participate in the class-room, feeling nervous and self-conscious, but with the support of a great tutor I settled in.I began to feel less nervous in speaking within the group and offering comments, joining in group discussions etc. During this time I met a very good friend whom shared a common interest in psychology, and we both decided to follow this study route, this was a real turning point for me. Psychology itself had always attracted me, but seemed an unavailable option study-wise, I realised that this was an opportunity to start doing something worthwhile 'for me',and forged ahead with my study tackling each of the necessary units for recognised degree with the British Psychological Society. Certainly there were difficult times during my study period- in August '92 eight weeks before the first exam I was involved in a near fatal car crash which left me with some breakages and whiplash, and foor weeks later we had to move back home to the south with no car, armed with three children a cat and hoards of luggage!! The morning of my exam I accidently sat on my glasses breaking them down the centre, I remember driving to the exam with them sellotaped in the middle, unfortunatley this decided to fall off mid-exam! suprisingly I managed a disinction and came back fighting! Subsequent years, particularly the third level (honours) courses (I did three of these) required serious application. The summer schools offered new and often exciting experiences- a key part was designing projects (artificial intelligence, memory, socialisation, problem solving etc) designing, running, collecting relevant
                            data then presenting this to the group. This was really very rewarding, leaving me feeling totally in charge of my designated study area, and laid down crucial experience for the all important double-weighted (marks-wise) project at the end of the year. Six years passed fairly quickly, I knew that to do clinical psychology I would need a first class degree - which meant I needed to get a first in the final exam. Unfortunately I had been ill for several weeks with an undiagnosed tooth abcess, it was not until a week before the exam that the dentist decided on extraction and an urgent course of anti-biotics! I vivdly remember sitting at my desk in tears, struggling with the revision which then seemed hopeless but made a pact with myself to aim at a pass nothing more.On entering the exam the invigilator commented that I didn't look too good which was not encouraging, but I felt I had to do my best - I'd come this far. I don't know how, but I was given a distinciton for that last exam and awarded a first class honours - My daughter delights in telling everyone how after reading my final results I suddenly started jumping and screaming, throwing my arms in the air "like the people on 'family fortunes'"! I graduated at Egham, Surrey and couldn't stop smiling, all the hard work suddenly seemed worthwhile, what had seemed an impossible endeavour was now reality, I had accomplished something I thought at thirty four was beyond my reach.If I can do it so can you. Life as a 'mature' student - a good idea? -my resounding advice is YES - GO FOR IT! - don't be put off, or listen to inner doubts, or be afraid of the unknown - instead open your eyes and mind to the huge array of opportunities that await you on the horizon of life and TAKE THEM.

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                              28.10.2000 07:51
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                              I just want to share some good news: my hubby just graduated this year, at the grand age of 34, with first class honours in BSc. Computing. He recently started work as a Software Engineer, and I am so proud of him! He started at university by doing an Access course to qualify for entry onto the degree course, and that turned a three year stint at university into four years. This is of course a major commitment at any age, but at 34 it takes great courage to start again in on new career path. However, with determination and dedication and hard work (he insists intelligence is not as major a factor as we are often told), anyone could do the same. The organisational habits and discipline he has developed through work beforehand conditioned him to complete all the assignments, study, and exam revision. So I hope this inspires someone else to take the plunge, and believe in themselves. One more thing, he finished joint top in his class, which consisted of around 10-20% mature students. The only other first class degree from his class was also a mature student! Give it a go - it does not have to be a degree: there are lots of shorter courses available, with fewer or no exams, and it enables you explore another side of yourself.

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                              24.10.2000 15:19
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                              I left school when I was 15, which, in those days, was considered 'staying on' at school. I grew up in the countryside and going to university was not something that anyone we knew had ever done, so it certainly did not occur to me. Many many years passed and both my children went to university. One became a senior university tutor and, after a great deal of persuading, finally convinced me that, having reached retirement age, I should 'use or lose' the old grey matter. I was certainly very wary about formal education, and not a little bit intimidated by the whole idea. Fortunately, a group of people set up a University of the Third Age branch near me and arranged a wide range of educational programmes. Somewhat to my surprise I found that my brain hadn't actually atrophied with age and I could keep up with the classes that they ran. The next step, again at the behest of my daughter, was to sign on the dotted line for what's called an Access Course. These enable people without formal qualifications to qualify for university entrance. They also put quite a lot of emphasis on learning skills, which I very much needed. I found I was by far the oldest person in the class and I was worried that the tutors wouldn't have time for an OAP who was never going to be able to embark upon a new career with the material they were taught. Fellow class members, however, and the tutors, couldn't have been nicer and more helpful. I think I was regarded as something of a novelty, but I didn't mind at all. The course was hard and the learning was very different to when I was at school. When I was at school education was very much about learning by rote, and the teacher would hit you with a ruler if you forgot the lines or got a sum wrong. The main thing I had been good at at school had been maths, so I thought I would want to study in that area. I soon discovered, however, that maths today is diff
                              erent and it didn't hold my interest like it used to. The good thing about the access course was that we got to try out quite a lot of subjects at what would be approaching degree level. The course is supposed to last one year, but I took two years to do it because I took some extra subjects to help me to feel more confident at studying. Among the topics that we had to learn were subjects like computer skills and, as you can see, just the fact that I'm here and using my daughter's computer shows that it is perfectly possible for us pensioners to manage to use new technology without too much trouble. The tutors on the access course were very good in that respect and although I was a bit concerned, the handouts and papers they gave us were so helpful that I could work through everything at my own pace and complete the assignments, even if it took me a bit longer than the younger ones. Anyway, after the two years I passed the access course. I didn't apply to university straight away because I thought that they really wouldn't want to give a place to someone my age. My daughter chivvied me along though and last month I started an undergraduate programme in geography. I was quite astonished to be accepted and many people think I'm a bit daft to be doing it, but I was just very grateful to be given tis opportunity So far so good. There are other mature students on the programme but even the eldest is young enough to be my grand-daughter. Everyone has been very nice to me though and I have been surprised at how easily I have made the transition into my new routine. If my experiences are typical I would recommend study to anyone who is somewhat older. I've met some very interesting people whom I would never have otherwise met. The courses have been very interesting indeed and there is something very rejuvinating about discovering a whole range of new interests and new ways of looking at things. I have been sur
                              prised by how welcoming and helpful everyone has been; and no-one hits you with a ruler these days if you get the answers wrong!

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