Preparing to study
There’s no doubt though that higher education is challenging, and you need to be prepared for the demands of academic life. However, the university or college that offers you a place will have every confidence in your abilities, and each course provider will offer some form of support.
Before you even start your application, you need to think carefully about any support you might need to make a smooth transition and succed in your studies, and to factor this into your research. For example, if you have a family, perhaps on-campus or local childcare facilities are an important requirement. Maybe you require Blue Badge parking, or support with a learning difference. Maybe you need some flexibility around hospital appointments for yourself or someone you care for. Speak to student support services for more information about what facilities and support the university or college can provide to help you. Don't be worried to ask – there is a diverse range of student support and facilities available at university which are designed to help.
Take time to settle in
Give yourself time to settle in and adapt to student life, as it can prove to be quite an adjustment balancing new commitments alongside your existing ones. It could be worth exploring programmes to help students sharpen their study skills, which are often offered by universities and colleges to assist in acclimatising to degree-level study. Check what’s on offer with your chosen university or college’s student support team.
‘My university’s Academic Support Centre offers these great workshops that I found really helpful. The one about time management was really good for me. It helped me to design a timetable and find the right balance between home and school life.’
Ingrid Anderson, 34, studying Law at UWE
When you arrive, check if there is a welcome event planned for mature students, or any clubs or societies that you could attend. They’re a great opportunity to meet other students who are in a similar position to yourself. You may not always find your course easy, and life as a mature student will have its challenges, but you will have the benefit of studying with other students who have similar interests, and are encountering the same problems. They will be there to provide mutual support when the going gets tough, and will value the support you can provide too.
Students with parenting responsibilities
If you are responsible for the care and wellbeing of a child aged 17 or under, you may be able to access additional support from the course provider. This could include:
- childcare facilities – these are competitive, so apply early
- health and wellbeing support, including on-site health centres
- financial support, such as hardship funds or budgeting advice
- academic support, to manage deadlines and workload
- family accommodation, if you plan to live on-campus
Many universities and colleges have on-site childcare facilities. Speak to student services at the university to find out more about the cost, opening hours, and to ask any questions you may have.
If you're in full-time higher education and eligible for student finance, you can receive up to 85% of your childcare costs (Ofsted-registered only), and you can apply for the grant as part of your student finance application.
You may be eligible to apply for support such as the Childcare Grant or Parents' Learning Allowance. It can be confusing to understand what you're entiled to claim, so it's a good idea to speak to an adviser at the university, Citizens Advice, or at an independent advice centre.
Students with caring responsibilities
If you are responsible for providing unpaid care to a family member, partner, or friend, you may be able to receive extra support during your studies. This could include:
- financial help, such as a busary
- support with managing your workload and deadlines
- help with your own health and wellbeing
There's a variety of help available for students with care responsibilites, so it's a good idea to contact your university or college as early as possible to discuss your circumstances, and any support needs you may have, however small or major they may seem.