Returning to education later in life: becoming a mature student

Returning to education later in life: becoming a mature student

Undertaking a degree at university as a mature student (from the age of 21, you’ll be classed as one) is nowhere near as scary as it might sound. There are plenty of things to take into account though prior to embarking on an undergraduate course.

Subject Choice

The most obvious choice would be the subject in which you excelled most of all when undertaking your A Levels or alternative sixth form qualification. However, this may not always lead you to the end result you’re hoping to achieve or the subject may not have even been available at that level. For example, if you’d like to become a primary school teacher, you may wish to study for a degree in education or specialise in another subject area like English literature. Ensure you look into the number of UCAS points you need to be in with a chance of getting onto the course. However, for those older prospective students, others factors may be taken into account e.g. relevant experience.


If you’re a mature student with dependents, the location you choose will be somewhat limited. Be sure to investigate local colleges as they may also offer degree courses accredited by local universities. If you are without any place-specific commitments, you have a much wider choice. Be sure to check out online information. For example, take a look at the University of Winchester ranking for genuine ratings and information according to students who’ve actually been there. Additionally, try to visit your favoured places on open days. The dates for these are usually displayed with plenty of warning on their websites.

Time Commitments

Studying for an undergraduate degree is not as simple as heading to campus, sitting through lectures and returning home at the end of the day. You must allocate time to complete assignments, prepare presentations, and revise for examinations. Modules are usually made up of more than one method of assessment.

Financial Impact

Getting a higher education is not cheap. However, there is the option to take out a student loan if this is your first degree. If you have dependents, you may be eligible to a higher amount of loan or bursary. In fact, some universities will also award scholarships specifically for mature students, so ask for further information.Once you hit a certain threshold in terms of your salary, it will be repayable, and is always subject to interest, although it is only a small amount. Be sure to consider the impact it will have on your household income. You may need to stop a well-paid job to give yourself the best chance of success. It may be possible to take a part time job alongside your studies. Take into account the cost of transport from home to university. If travelling by car, consider how much parking will cost too. Additional costs include books. While it may be possible to borrow them from the library, with hundreds needing the same book at the same time, it can be a challenge. Check online student noticeboards to see if anyone is selling anything you require.

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