Starting University at 41, Debbie’s mature student story

This is something I wanted to do since I started this blog, creating a student story category to share people’s stories. I believe it is one of the best way to help those looking for difficult “answers”. I know, we are all different and have unique stories; there is not one size fits all, and I agree with that.

However, I also know mature students share very similar fears, particularly before actually making the decision to return to study. It is here that reading other student stories can help massively. Sometimes all you need is just an encouragement; and if it comes from someone who has experienced those feelings already, it’s more likely to work!

So I started asking for stories in various mature students groups; and Debbie has kindly offered to share her student story. The goal is to share as many as possible (find a complete list of stories at the end) so that they can more easily reach and help those who need a bit of encouragement.

Debbie’s mature student story

I’m Debbie and I’m a 1st year mature student studying BSc Psychology at Bournemouth University. 
I have had an interest in Psychology ever since school but when the Career’s Advisor told me it would mean at least another 7 years of education, I said “no thanks”, and studied for a Legal Secretarial Diploma instead.

I went on to work as a Legal Secretary for a Blue-Chip law firm in London; then 6 years later I moved into a Learning & Development role and continued down that path for the next 20+ years. However, I never lost that interest in Psychology. I was interested in how people learned and adapted my training approach to incorporate psychological theories and coaching methodology.

What led me to finally take the step to do a Psychology degree was my Manager in my last role. I was managing a Product Enablement Team for a software company. I was responsible for ensuring both staff and customers were skilled on how to use the products our division delivered.

After the company I was working for was acquired, I moved under a new manager who asked that old age question ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’. However, he added ‘be honest and it doesn’t have to be working for this company’. I responded that I’d always had a dream to go to university to study Psychology, and he said, ‘so let’s make that happen’. 

The start of the mature student journey – Debbie’s story

Before I knew it, I was signing myself up for the Bournemouth University Open Day. It was during one of the earlier lockdowns so it was only online; but it still gave me the confidence that I could do it, I could go to University and I could fulfil this dream. I applied and here I am!

I didn’t go to University at 18, as many people do, so I didn’t really know what to expect but I wanted to throw myself in fully to get the full University experience. OK, maybe not living in halls, I have a family with two youngish children (now 13 and 9); but I put myself out there to join groups on Snapchat, go out during Freshers’, I even joined a society. Admittedly, I do give the midweek varsity nights out a miss. Though they sound like lots of fun!

It was a bit shocking to find out that you are classed as a mature student as young as 22 so when I joined a Mature Students Snapchat group, I felt a bit nervous being around 20 years older than most of the people on that group, but they all accepted me and made me feel welcome.

This was even before the start of the first semester which really helped to tackle those first day nerves. Especially as there was one person who was on my course so I could have a familiar face in the Lecture Hall on that first lecture.

A challenge of university as a mature student

The next challenging moment was that first assignment. Although I’ve continued to study professional qualifications since I left college, the expectations of University are so much higher than what I have done previously, and I hadn’t had any experience of academic writing.

However, I felt the lecture topics, and seminar labs were designed in that first semester to walk us in gently and academic writing wasn’t just a new skill to me but for most people on my course. I didn’t feel alone, and I felt I was being guided by the lecturers to prepare me in the best way for that first assignment.

I was pleased with my 2.1 mark for my first assignment and received fantastic feedback which has allowed me to continue to develop my academic writing skills, getting a 1st in each of my following 3 assignments. 

Coping with the new student life

Going to University later in life and balancing studying with family commitments can be a bit of a juggle. I’m lucky that I have my husband’s support and I hope what I’m doing is also inspiring my children to follow their dreams. Although, I hope they don’t leave it as long as me to fulfil them.

I must be more organised, managing my time and be strict with not leaving my assignments to the last minute; I can’t pull all-nighters like many younger students do. The term times are different to school terms too, so I don’t always get to spend half-term holidays with my children. However, I do get to drop my daughter to school and pick her up most days which I couldn’t do when working full time, which is nice.  

Future plans after university

I’m still forming my plan for how I will use my degree once I leave University. I want it to complement my former learning and development career, so I am considering a few ideas related to that. Maybe coaching or organisation psychology where I can work at developing leaders or improve staff retention, or perhaps even academia.

I’ve enjoyed the different subject areas covered so far and I’m keeping an open mind in case a new psychological area I start to learn may persuade me in a new direction. However, I’ve still time to figure it all out. 

For anyone thinking of returning to University, I’d definitely say go for it. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering what if! When you do take that giant step then the advice I’d give is throw yourself in to it. Put yourself out there to meet people, talk to people, join Snapchat groups – even when everyone is half your age.

You can learn a lot from others, and they can learn from you. I’ve found the Snapchat groups I’m part of a great support and encouragement. 

Thanks Debbie for sharing your student story!

Thank you Debbie, I really wish you all the best for your mature student journey! For those reading this post, I hope you find this story useful, it’s never too late!

If you liked this story, please share it on social media and help it reach more people, thank you! Are you looking for more stories? Here you can find more:

Do you like the content of this blog? You can find all posts HERE.