Using examples from three HE providers, here are just some of the things that are offered to mature students to help you make the best start possible.
Am I going to be the only mature student?
Over 40% of mature students are over 30 years of age, and many will have been out of education or formal learning for a number of years. Universities and colleges understand this, and when they offer you a place, they are looking at your potential as well as your qualifications.
Taking a person-centred approach to teaching and student support is crucial. We assess and accredit their prior academic and experiential learning (Accreditation of Prior Learning) to determine at what part of the degree programme it will be most appropriate for them to enrol.'
London South Bank University
Similarly, the Open University operates a pre-study calling campaign, making targeted calls to ensure students have made an informed choice, are studying at the right level, and know how to access support. Some universities and colleges have specific events and societies for mature students, or a dedicated officer in the students' union, recognising your student experience may be different. In addition, many universities such as Birkbeck, University of London offer free public events and lectures to get a taste of studying and learning at university, before you consider applying. Contact your university or college to find out what the student demographics are like, and check their website for other facts about the course.
I've been out of education for a while. What do I need to do to make sure I succeed?
Many higher education (HE) providers will offer study skills modules, either as part of your first term or before you enrol, often as an online course. The Open University, for example, offers an online tool called ‘Am I ready for success?’, which allows students to self-assess their readiness for study, and signposts support materials – this has been completed 80,000 times since it was launched in 2017.
If your university or college doesn’t offer anything like this, you can also look online for any open access online modules (known as MOOCs), or courses that will help with your preparation. Keep an eye out for any communications before you start, as they may include recommendations for things you can read or do to make sure you’re prepared.
I've got a lot of commitments
Mature students often have work, mortgage, and/or family responsibilities that need to be balanced alongside their studies. London South Bank University offers all students a personal tutor, and has found this to be particularly important for mature students.
By making personal tutors available for regular face-to-face meetings, the university is in a position to make small but meaningful adjustments, such as liaising with placement providers about providing more family-friendly hours, or assisting in breaking down work so they can better fit it in with family life.'
London South Bank University
Even though they offer distance learning courses, the Open University offers regular personalised support to students delivered by their Student Recruitment and Support Centres (SRSC). In 2017, they handled 350,000 calls and emails from students to supplement the online advice available, as well as engaging in over 3,000 individual interventions to assist students. If you are worried about your situation, talk directly to your university or college to see what they can do to support you.
What about finances?
There’s no age limit to student finance, so you can apply at any time of life – as long as it’s the first time you will be studying for a degree. Many universities and colleges offer scholarships or bursaries, some targeted specifically at mature students. Ana, a 55 year old student at Birkbeck, University of London, found she was eligible for a bursary after attending a community outreach event at the university, delivered by the Access and Engagement Team.
You may also be eligible for additional financial support if you have children or adult dependants. For more information on student finance and funding, take a look at our finance pages.
Take a look at our Mature Students' Guide, or contact your chosen university or college directly.
You could also speak directly to current undergraduate students about their experiences:
Ask me about going back to study to change career, how it felt fitting in as a mature student, or anything else uni related you can think of.