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What’s it Like to be a Mature Age Student?
There’s a preconceived notion that only younger students can excel in their tertiary studies. This is, thankfully, being dismantled, as more and more older adults are getting back into higher education to achieve their career goals. In fact, 40% of university students are 25 and older.
Before we get into the finer details, let’s see if we can define what a ‘mature aged student’ actually is. A lot of people imagine someone who’s middle-aged, but in actuality, it can encompass people who take a gap year to those who haven’t studied in ten years.
Why are More and More Mature Aged Students Upskilling?
With this rapidly changing world comes workforce digitalisation. It’s no wonder so many people – old and young adults alike – have become disillusioned with the working world. With the pace of innovation becoming faster, and digital skillsets becoming crucial rather than ‘nice-to-have’, many are turning to further education, looking to further their careers and trounce fears of unemployability through upskilling.
One of the biggest issues older adults face in the workplace is ageism. Although it’s illegal, it still happens regularly in Australian workplaces, where older workers are victims of stereotyping. The biggest stereotype is that, despite years of experience and unparalleled wisdom in their field, older workers can’t keep up with the necessary digital skills.
These stereotypes can leave older adults out of the loop when it comes to promotions and may stunt career progression altogether in some workplaces. And since ageism is so insidious, it’s difficult for people to prove their doubters wrong. However, returning to study is one way older adults are adopting new skills and throwing off these false beliefs.
Upskilling is also one of the key ways people are kick-starting a career change over 50. Because even later in life, there are so many opportunities to get out of a career that isn’t fulfilling you or has burnt you out, and start one that you’ll love.
If you don’t jive with academics, then that’s okay too! There are also a number of apprenticeships suitable for a mature aged student.
What are the positives?
It’s easy to fall into a negative cycle when your current work choices haven’t gone according to plan. You might even think the same way when transitioning to further study. Yet, if you’re feeling sure you’re ready to start on a new path, you might find that becoming a mature aged student isn’t all doom and gloom. In actuality, many people find it immensely rewarding for a number of reasons.
1. Your Life Experiences Can Play a Part
As an older person, you’re naturally going to have more experience with life’s challenges compared to a younger student. Working multiple jobs and raising a family doesn’t have to be detrimental to your university life. In fact, the skills you pick up can be easily applied to studying, such as the ability to focus and managing your time.
2. You’ll Be More Motivated
If you were to compare a younger and older student, you’ll often find that the latter will be more motivated to complete coursework. A younger student is pushed into higher education, unsure as to whether or not they actually want to do it. But you, as a mature aged student, will be doing this because you’re truly passionate about the course.
However, if by chance, you don’t have a career in mind, take this quiz to get a better understanding of what you would like to do.
But what if you’re still not motivated? Well, for starters, don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s impossible to keep on studying 100% of the time without losing a bit of steam. That applies to all students, of all ages. To avoid procrastination and maintain a positive mindset, make sure that you create a to-do list, break up some of the larger tasks you have and offer yourself rewards when you achieve your goals, no matter how small.
3. You’ll Have the Opportunity to Expand your Networks
Most people start building up their networks while embarking on further study, and for good reason. There are plenty of events that you can attend through your university or TAFE, where you can meet with professionals in your field. Your tutors should have key insights on this topic as well, and will likely be professionals in the field themselves, so make sure to ask them how to establish these connections.
1. Juggling Coursework With Other Commitments
Time management is critical here, more so for older students since they have already established their life with families and work. By planning out your day, prioritising the tasks you need to do and your breaks, you should be able to get a good work-life balance in no time.
It won’t always be a walk in the park, especially around assessment time. You might feel overwhelmed trying to juggle your coursework with the rest of your life. But don’t forget to utilise your greatest support network – your family. Although they likely won’t be able to help with your coursework, simply talking to them about your stress can help lift the burden; they might even be able to help you in other ways.
2. Getting Back Into the Study Mindset
To jump back into the study mindset, you’ll need to dedicate your time to hone in on those relevant skills, such as being able to prioritise tasks, the ability to research and to read critically. Some undergraduate courses do have a subject to guide you in your studies, but there are also separate short courses to ease you into it.
It can also help to set up a designated study area and organise a study schedule that fits in with the rest of your commitments, from work to family dinner, to relaxation time.
But, the real key to settling back into a study mindset – or getting into it for the first time – is to think positively about it. You might be tackling subject areas you’ve never even heard of, but if you approach it with the attitude that you love to learn, and are keen to develop new skills, you’ll get a lot more out of your studies than someone who is just doing it for qualification.
The Power Will Always be in Your Hands
The main takeaway here is that even though it has its challenges, excelling in the further study is definitely possible as an older student. Don’t be afraid to ask for help by contacting general student support services or your tutors. You have the tools for your learning experience at your disposal, all you have to do is take the chance.
If you’re still trying to work out which career path to head down, these nine job ideas are great for older adults looking for a change of pace.
Making a Career Change as an Older Adult: The Complete Guide
In this guide, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about changing careers as an older adult.
If you’d like to learn more about starting your career change, what it’s like to be a mature age student, picking a career path, or even writing career change cover letters, all the information you need is here.
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