Hear directly from mature students about what it was like studying for their undergraduate degrees

Izzy Dunbar

'Learning is a continuous journey' – Izzy's life has been transformed by education.

Check out case studies that previous mature students have submitted to us below, or if you'd prefer, you can speak to current students on Unibuddy!

Chat to students like Dan on Unibuddy! 

Ask me about being a mature undergraduate student, and how it felt to acclimatise back into education, or anything else uni related you can think of. 


Alan Markland

'Life has become more satisfying' – Alan overcame tough personal problems and found his voice at university.

Rich, PGCE, University of Gloucestershire 

I am so glad that I waited to go to university, rather than going straight from school... Now I feel completely confident that I can do it. 

It wasn’t an easy decision, so I went to a few open days… and we really worked out the best path for me to take. 

Najib Rasooli

'Education was the only way to survive' – Najib fled Afghanistan at 15; higher education gave him strength and direction in the face of adversity.

Lauren, Product Manager, UCAS

Equine Performance, Hartpury College 

The first time I went to university at 18, I had my heart set on a career in psychology, and started a degree in psychology with neuropsychology at Bangor University. While I loved the town, the local lifestyle, and a lot of the subject areas in the degree, I hadn’t understood going in how much of the first year was going to be focused on statistics and research methods. Having passed the other modules in my first year, I spent the second year retaking the two stats modules – but I’m not the best mathematician, and I failed it. This meant I couldn’t progress to my second year, and I left my degree early.

I stayed living in Bangor as I had a good set of friends, liked living in the town, and worked full time while I figured out what to do next. During that time, I rediscovered a childhood love of horse riding. I hadn’t known about career opportunities in the equine industry until I started riding again at a local stables again, where the yard manager was a professional dressage rider and sometimes had equine physiotherapists visit to treat her horses. I learnt about professional grooming, and the opportunities that it could bring to travel the world and experience being part of a team that represented the country at international level. I researched what programmes there were to train, and applied to study a foundation degree in equine performance at Hartpury College, and at 22, I went back in to full-time higher education after working full-time in credit management for a year to save up.

It felt strange at first to be among a classroom of people just starting out on their own for the first time. I didn’t want to go in to halls of accommodation, so I privately rented a studio flat in Gloucester. I'd thought it wouldn’t make too much of a difference in building new friendships, but I definitely felt a little isolated to start with, despite being a similar age to most people in my classes. However, the tutors and environment as a whole at Hartpury were so welcoming and supportive, irrespective of anyone’s age or reason for studying there, that I very soon felt at  home. It was a big step at the time, I had a good job at a credible company that should I want to, would be able to support a mortgage and build a foundation for myself from. But I wasn’t happy – so I took the risk, and can say now the things I learnt from returning to HE as a mature student are things have stuck with me and helped me deal with the challenges in full-time work now, and life as a whole. I also made friends for life –the girl I sat next to in the first lesson of the first year is my one of my closest friends now, twelve years later!

If you’re thinking of applying, and there isn’t an obvious reason not to, go for it! Ask lots of questions to get the support you need, keep an open mind, and it will be one of the best experiences you’ll ever have.


Dan, Copy Editor, UCAS 

Creative Writing, University of Gloucestershire 

My course was a real broad church, we had everyone – from school leavers, to young parents, to people who’d had established themselves for a number of years and were looking for a career change, or to just give themselves the opportunity they feel they’d missed earlier in life for whatever reason. And once the inevitable incidents of young foolishness were out of the way (like someone trying to microwave baked beans while they were still inside the can!) we all soon enough forgot about any perceived age gap.  



Elle Boag

'I’ve achieved more than I thought possible' – not content with 'staid acceptance' of her disability, Elle went on to study and subsequently lecture other undergraduates.

Hannah, Event Support Executive, UCAS 

English Literature, University of Gloucestershire  

I was a mature student as I started university when I was 25. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was younger so just got a job that I didn’t really have an interest in. 

Going to uni being a bit older meant that I was able to save some money beforehand, and also I found much more value in how I was spending my time. I genuinely enjoyed learning and didn’t take the opportunity for granted like I would have done when I was younger. I could also bring skills I had learnt from working, like organisation, communicating well, etc. 

My university also had a mature students society, as a space where older people who might have priorities like childcare etc could chat to people who are going through similar experiences. 



Silva, Business Change Co-Ordinator, UCAS 

Heritage and Landscape, University of Plymouth  

I was a single parent when my daughter was three years old, and I was looking for something to do at home in the evenings. I took A level English literature as a private entry student, and then did three years with the Open University. The monthly study sessions our tutor arranged inspired me to apply to Plymouth University, so that I wasn’t learning in such an isolated way. I joined the second year of their Heritage and Landscape degree, and although it was tricky at times juggling childcare, work, and studying, there were several other mature students on the course, and we supported each other. It was the best two years of my life! I graduated aged 30 and have been able to use what I learned in a variety of jobs since then. 



Ged Bretherton

'I wanted to prove something to myself' – Ged's experience working for his union prompted him to get back into education.

Kay, Internal Communications Manager, UCAS

Psychology, Open University

Every time I received and opened my new course books, I got so excited by a whole world of knowledge opening up to me


Alan, Professional Development Executive, UCAS  

Film Studies, University of Kent 

I went back to uni at 33 in 1996 – having started a course at 18 at a Russell Group Uni and dropped out because I hadn’t done enough research, and it wasn’t what I thought! 

My main pieces of advice are: 

  • Do thorough and effective research to make sure you know what you are getting, and you are going to get what you want. 

  • This will also help you to make a focused application (and write a really focused personal statement), as well as ensuring that you will be able to hit the ground running when you start your course. 

  • My biggest worry was probably around writing academic essays. At the start, I tried to use too many quotes, just to show how much I had read! My advice is to take it easy – how much you’ve read and understood will come through anyway, so make sure your thoughts and responses come through in your writing. In the end, I achieved a first, and it did wonders for my confidence! 

  • Mix with as many people as you can – of as many ages, cultures, and backgrounds… you will gravitate to close relationships. My final year housemates and I still meet up two or three times a year and have our own Instagram group… and we’ve been graduated for 20 years now! 

  • Try new things (so long as they don’t distract from your studies), such as work experience, groups, societies, and sports – they can help build your CV, your personality, and your experiences. You can really find out about yourself, apply what you learn, and have some great examples for future interviews! 

  • I started at UCAS operating the folding machines for the old paper application forms, then progressed to the Customer Experience Centre, because I wanted to help other students have my second experience of university, rather than my first. I’ve now been here for 20 years helping people understand how to maximise their chances of success when applying via UCAS. 

I went to The University of Kent, Canterbury and read for a BA in Film Studies. It was never intended to be a lead into employment in the cinema  I treated it as a purely academic discipline, studying something I have always loved, and which would provide me with lots of new approaches (e.g. aesthetic, industrial, technical, economic, etc.) and would allow me to develop useful skills, such as analytical and critical thinking.  

Amanda Scales

‘It is like seeing a whole other world’ – Amanda found university a transformative experience.

Nicky, Policy Executive, UCAS

Information Management, UWE, Bristol

I chose to return to higher education and study for an MSc in Information Management as I was planning a career change. I had a part-time job alongside my studies, so I was worried at first that I would find it difficult to complete my work on time and prepare for my lessons. However, the university was very clear about their assessment periods and expectations, so I was able to plan ahead. I didn’t have enough time to leave things to the last minute, so it meant I was very organised with my assessments.

The tutors urged us to think about our final thesis early on, which was much appreciated when it came to writing it – there were no last-minute panics! Whenever preparation time was very limited, I contacted the tutor ahead of the lesson and they helped me prioritise the most important tasks, so I didn’t feel under-prepared. All-in-all, I found it a really rewarding experience.