TIPS FROM A LATE STARTER
10th September 2018
By. S. Lemon
I am a ‘mature’ student aged 47 about to embark on my third year reading a BSc (Hons) Psychology degree at the University of Gloucestershire.
My original understanding of a mature student was pretty egocentric as I assumed all mature students were as ‘well’ matured as myself. I now know it refers to anyone aged 21 upwards who did not attend university straight from leaving school. UCAS states that a quarter of all university students are mature, with the majority between 21 and 39 years old and 10% being over 40. I love being in the minority and perhaps feel a greater sense of group membership because of that but I digress as you will explore all that and more during the fascinating social psychology module.
Usually I am full of good advice for anyone who shows the slightest interest but putting together tips for mature psychology students just starting out seems a rather important task. Everyone’s experience will be different and with that in mind I have included some of my fellow ‘maturite’ students quotes along with my top tips.
SCAFFOLDING – TALK TO EVERYONE & BUILD SUPPORT
“Uni is a social experience. The syllabus is not the only thing I’m learning from or about” – Iain
As a mature student you are probably already used to approaching people or networking. Use this skill and talk to everyone including; students, lecturers, administration staff, and librarians. Not only will getting to know the people who make up the university help you navigate the often overwhelming and confusing life of academia, but it will also enrich your university experience.
RESCOURCES – MAKE USE OF ALL THAT ARE AVAILABLE
The hardest thing for me as an ‘oldie’ was getting to grips with the technology. In the beginning I killed entire forests printing information I was worried I would never find again. Using the extra resources and courses on offer at the university really helped me with this and many other areas related to studying. Attend all the courses that you can, from the ‘using the library’ to ‘endnote’, my mantra is if you take one thing away then you will know more than you did before.
“I wish I had not spent so much money on books as all the resources are available from the library and your lecturers” – Charlotte. If you can’t find what you are looking for then ask, your course librarian or lecturer can often source it and put it online for you. But as Sarah Q also says “You can’t read everything! (But if you read just one thing from the ‘further’ reading list, you’re doing well)” so pace yourself.
Using resources offered I went to the ‘meet your tutor’. It’s not a requirement but I highly recommend doing so and I asked him what advice he had for me and his response was “don’t panic”. Simple but effective. Whenever it seems too much take a deep breath, close your eyes and remember ‘don’t panic’. I can’t say I have always succeeded; one exam last year I managed to ignore both that advice and the advice of the module tutor who said, ‘don’t succumb to the urge to purge all the information in your head onto the paper’. That said I still managed to pass which leads nicely to my next tip.
TRUST YOUR LECTURERS – THEY ARE NOT PAID TO LOOK PRETTY
When I expressed concerns to a friend about our final year she wisely said, “Yes, I know it’s going to be really hard work, but I have learnt to have faith in our lecturers. As long as we put the work in I now trust they will make sure we get through the year”.
This is such excellent advice so remember when it all feels too much and that you will never be able to complete that assignment or write that exam, stop. Remember all the hard work you have done and trust me, you know more than you think you do and that’s thanks to your lecturers. You will be fine.
“Relax. Enjoy the experience. They know what they’re doing” – Iain
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES – IT’S NOT A LINEAR CLIMB OF GRADE MARKS
“Don’t compare yourself to others on your course – they’re on a different journey” – Sarah Q
I somewhat foolishly thought I would continually get better as time progressed. Mostly I have, but there have been some downs and wow did they hurt. One lecturer kindly explained that learning is not a linear progression to higher marks and ability but that there will be dips along the way.
When these happen embrace them and learn from them. Seek out your marker or your module tutor and ask for some pointers or to more detailed feedback, I have always found the lecturers very approachable. I have learnt extremely valuable lessons from my ‘mistakes’ that I will (hopefully) take forward into my final year.
“Your ‘best’ is enough” – Sarah Q
PLANNING IS KEY – JUGGLING HOME, WORK AND UNIVERSITY
“Use a diary. Plan time for unwinding – burnout is a significant threat to all these aspects of life” – Iain
“Be organised! – Don’t ever leave assignments until last minute” – Charlotte
“Self-discipline has been one of the hardest things” – Sarah Q
Most mature students hold either full or part-time jobs and many have extra commitments both financially and personal. This can be difficult to manage and can sometimes threaten to overwhelm you. One lecturer during my first year suggested I write myself a timetable for my entire life as it would make me feel better and he was right (remember trust?)! This also goes for budgeting for the year ahead. To be honest I seldom manage to adhere to my very beautiful colour coded excel spreadsheet timetables but despite that, doing them always make me feel I will survive the semester.
“If your life allows it, try to do your work when all other partners/family/friends are at work (or school) that way when they come home you can relax with them guilt-free” – Sarah Q
LET STUFF GO – TRY NOT TO WORRY TOO MUCH & BE KIND TO YOURSELF
“Most importantly, stop worrying!! – Once an assignment has been submitted, let it go and move on, worrying cannot change anything. University is very important, but your mental health is more important” – Charlotte
Change is difficult and no matter what age you are, going to university is a BIG change, one which can also change us as people. These changes can impact on our personal relationships both emotionally and practically and its important to recognise this and be kind to yourself. Seek support when you feel you need it from friends, personal tutors, and family.
“If you can, find someone on your course that you feel comfortable to chat with, it’s invaluable” – Sarah Q
MY FELLOW ‘MATURITES’ MOST ENJOYABLE/FUNNIEST/BEST MOMENT
“Seeing my friends succeed after all their effort and stress. It makes not doing OU absolutely the right choice” – Iain
“Gaining unexpected but special friends” – Sarah Q
“Secret Santa in the first semester of the first year. Iain was gifted a ‘man-kini’ and very proudly modelled it in the SU bar” – Charlotte
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY – ENJOY
“The time flies by so fast, enjoy it because it has been one of the best experiences of my life so far” – Charlotte
I absolutely agree with Charlotte on this. For me it is has been the most wonderful life changing opportunity and despite the occasional tears, tantrums and self-doubt I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
We wish you well and remember… relax, don’t panic and try to enjoy the ride!
PS My Funniest Mature Moment – UCAS kindly provided my details to a marketing company prior to my university attendance and I received a package through the post with a free sample.
This turned out to be a pack of female menstruation pads and I quote (roughly) to ‘keep me protected during the best years of my life’. This still makes me chuckle today. Could someone please inform UCAS that for students of my ‘mature’ years ‘Ladies Tena Lights’ would be far more appropriate!