Education should be embraced by all, and everyone should have the opportunity to learn. They should be encouraged and inspired to reach their potential. Mature students may just need a bit more encouragement and reassurance, they can achieve, and because they are generally more focused, they know why they are studying and what they want to achieve. They have drive; they just need some support to help them learn the skills required for academic success.
I’ve just delivered my first induction session of the 2020/21 Academic Year. As ever, its like the first time all over again. I get so nervous as I prepare to meet my students for the first time. Its a new year, full of opportunities and potential. However, as I reflect on the unknowns – what will these students be like, will we get on, will they like me … they’re undoubtedly experiencing similar emotions. Even more so for mature students (those over 21, at least in the UK).
My class of inductees were enrolling on professional courses and some have not been in the classroom for over 20 years. If I’m nervous about something I do annually, how must they be feeling? Returning to education as an adult is a daunting step – you doubt yourself and question what are you doing. I’m here to tell you to believe in yourself; you can do this. You have lots of life experience to draw upon to support your learning; the academic skills you will learn and develop over time.
There are some key points you should consider:
(a) Skills improve over time; review and adapt your work. Take on board the feedback you receive from your tutors and lecturers.
(b) It can take time for you to find your feet. You are adjusting to a whole new experience. There are a lot of things to learn and habits to get used to. Be kind to yourself; we are guilty of expecting ourselves to be able to do everything almost immediately. My experience indicates it can take 2-3 months to settle into academic life; so give yourself the permission and space to learn.
(c) At the beginning you are unlikely to know what support is available to you, but I would expect that your institution will provide academic support to you; ranging from study guides to teams set up to provide you with 1-1 support. Find out what is available to you and take advantage of that.
(d) We don’t always like asking someone for help, but your tutors/lecturers should want to see you succeed – so ask them for help. I maybe can’t help you with subject specific questions but you can pose general questions in the comments section.
(e) Mature students actually get better, their results improve, over time. So don’t give up. As I said above, take on board the feedback, develop your skills and boost your marks/grades and your confidence.
(f) Its normal to doubt yourself but persevere. As a child I was always told I was a failure; I wasn’t the first in my family to go to university, but I was the first to succeed. I believed going to university was beyond me – I now have an Honours Degree in Modern Languages, 2 postgraduate Degrees in HRM and 2 teaching degrees. If I can do this – so can you.
I’m not saying academic life is easy, but imagine how good it will feel when you have worked hard on an assessment, applied your learning and used all your skills. You know you have produced a good piece of work; how will you feel when you get your work back with the word “PASS” written at the top? Keep a hold of that feeling to encourage you to keep going.
In my next blog I will look at some general guidance for starting out on your academic journey and preparing for those first few weeks.