I’m a mature-aged student and I didn’t put a great deal of thought into returning to study. They say hindsight is a blessed thing, but I like to live with no regrets of chances I didn’t take – so threw myself into returning to tertiary studies. However, if I knew then what I knew now, it may well have been easier for me to prepare myself for my mind being blown by what university in 2017 means. Here’s a list of the things I have learned:
• The younger students are buzzed for you! They are very supportive! Who knew?! Instead of being scary, and looking a million years older younger people are interested in you, what led you to be at university too & see you as equal. The younger students are friendly, helpful, interested in your insights and willing to have you in their groups. I was shocked at how wonderful the younger students were – having erroneous and prejudicial thoughts… I’d be “surrounded by millennials” who I had nothing in common with & I would be deemed uncool.
•The staff are approachable. Whilst “my son couldn’t get to sleep because he had a blood nose and then lay awake freaking out about high school” doesn’t sound like the greatest excuse in the world, the staff have or are living that life too. They get what parenthood is and totally get other commitments. If anything, they respect you more for trying to juggle learning and parenthood.
• You’ve learned patience. Whilst that might be something you have ever considered about yourself, as you climb the rungs of a ladder to hopefully gain a degree, patience as you deal with university systems, waiting for grades, explanations of assignments and public transport is a very helpful key asset to have.
• You’ve learned to be an adult and ask for help. Absolutely key in getting a degree and, more importantly, decent grades.
• Your kids, if you have them, are proud of you. They get why you are doing it.
• University systems are close to fully paper free. This takes some getting used to. Yes, the corporate world uses IT. Yes, we all grew up with IT and the internet and use it daily. But, when we were all last in a formal classroom setting we took notes on notepads, we hand wrote essays, we gave dreaded 5-minute talks not PowerPoint presentations. What I found was my way of learning was instilled in me in Prep circa 1985.
Knowing how to use IT for work and knowing how to learn using IT, enroll using IT and progress using IT are entirely different. This came as a huge shock. My career has led me to be constantly using the best of the best in terms of software systems. I, rather pompously, thought I wouldn’t have a problem in this area. My brain appeared to be wired to reading actual books or printouts not eBooks – which, seeing as these days, there are no spiral bound readers for sale or printing on campus, equates to you using enough printer ink to be buying a small car – or reteaching your brain how to learn.
If I can stress anything, I would say this: find out everything you can about the university IT systems and what they all are as soon as possible. Ask the “dumb” questions. Find out about LMS, student email and student online. Make an appointment or phone Ask La Trobe. Do it and do it early, as soon as you get in.
• Not really a “con” but it needs saying: Believe in yourself. Those rungs on the ladder that seem like just a dream, the graduation certificate in your hand, are a lot closer than you think.
Claire Kearns is a third year student who returned to study in 2015 as a mature-aged student and is hoping to undertake her Honours in 2018. In her spare time, Claire is just a bit obsessed with Star Wars, writes poetry and is a passionate advocate for single mothers & their children. You can follow her on Instagram @ballerinapiratesmile.