Returning to education as a mature student Finding a job

Returning to Education as a Mature Student

If you’re thinking about returning to study, it might feel daunting but don’t let that stop you! Age is just a number and it’s never too late to go back into education.

Your decision will likely be based on your career aspirations and goals. It can act as a stepping stone to a promotion, more money or a new career. If you want to return to education as a mature student but you’re worried or doubtful about the challenges you might face, we’ve put together a useful guide to help you.

This guide will bust myths and misconceptions to help you overcome your worries so you can break through the barriers.

Challenge #1: I can’t afford it

While it’s true, university isn’t cheap that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t afford it. There is lots of financial support available to you. Undergraduate students can apply for a maintenance loan and tuition fee loan if you’ll be studying full time. For students who have extra expenses such as children who are dependent on you. You could also be entitled to other allowances if you’re disabled or on a low income.

Some universities also offer scholarships and bursaries. This will be dependent on the degree and subject area that you are looking to study. You can contact the admissions office at the university you would like to study at, who will be happy to help with any queries you have.

For many mature students, part time study may be the only option that suits your needs and requirements. If this is the case, you’ll usually pay per module (UK students) and you still have options. You may be able to get a loan if your part-time course has a ‘course intensity’ of 25% or more.

You can find out more about funding your university degree here:

Challenge #2: What if I don’t fit in?

You might be worried about being the oldest in your class and not fitting in but don’t be! Many younger students respect mature students, as one thing that comes with age is wisdom. A mature student is defined as any student aged 21 or over at the start of their studies. Just over a half are aged between 21 and 24, 38 percent between 25 and 39, and 10 per cent are over 40 when they commence their courses.

Universities welcome mature students as they have a lot to offer, from life and work experiences, a different perspective, open mindedness, inquisitiveness and commitment. Some universities also have a Mature Students’ Society so you can meet like minded students.

Challenge #3: I won’t be able to balance family life, work and a degree

Balancing work and study when you have a family can be a daunting prospect but it’s certainly not impossible and you’ll reap the rewards upon completion. The key to finding the right balance here is organisation.

Adopting the 80/20 rule can be a good way to commit to all your responsibilities including your family life! Focus on your studies without any distractions for a few hours. Make yourself a tick list to properly focus your efforts. By doing this, you’ll get just as much done in two hours than you would if you were studying for 5 hours with interruptions and zero planning throughout. Multitasking can have a negative impact on your study time and can leave you feeling like you haven’t really gotten anywhere. Try to focus on one task at a time.

Discipline yourself, work hard and commit to your studies but also find time for yourself, friends and family. And if you don’t stick to the plan one day, don’t beat yourself up about it. Things crop up and that can’t be helped. Accept that, move on from it and keep going!

Challenge #4: Will I have to learn how to learn again? How will I overcome my essay-writing phobia?

If it’s been some time since you’ve hit the library for study sessions then you might be feeling overwhelmed at the thought of having to take notes, search the library for resources, study for exams, write assignments and participate in group projects. If you have an essay-writing phobia, then the thought of researching, referencing, planning and actually writing a 2,000 word assignment before the deadline may sound daunting. Let us reassure you that many students will feel this way, regardless of age!

Remembering this will help take the pressure off yourself. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Universities offer support and advice outside of your studies so if you need help in other areas such as mental health support, financial advice, there will always be someone available.

Challenge #5: I don’t have the qualifications to get into university

If you don’t have the qualifications needed to get into university, don’t panic. You have options. You will need evidence that you have the ability to study at university level. Your employment history will support your application and qualifications taken many years ago will still be taken into consideration. Additionally, some universities don’t require traditional qualifications and will accept Open University credits, access courses and professional qualifications. If you don’t have the qualifications required to get into university, it is worth taking a look at Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) or Access to Higher Education courses.

It’s also advisable to contact the admissions office directly to discuss entry requirements as a mature student as this may differ from school leaver entry.


If you’re still wondering, ‘am I cut out for this?’ Remember, you absolutely are. You can do anything if you put your mind to it so…

Step out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, believe in yourself and go get that qualification

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