I would definitely say this was one of my biggest concerns before starting University at 26 as a mature student; obviously along with my age, fitting into the university environment and finding a job after graduating. Whatever age you are, finding the right answer is extremely difficult.
Just like you are doing now, I spent days looking up on the internet for something “definitive”. However, the more time I spent reading the more I was getting confused. Instead of finding the answers I was looking for, I was ending up with more questions!
All I could find were two factions: one side made of very discouraging people, and another side made of people saying it was worth it. Usually people say that the truth lies in the middle, but such statement is too simple for my liking.
If you had been around this blog (thank you!), you would know by now how we approach arguments here: analytically. In this article I will cover the main points of getting a degree as a mature student.
The two factions
Both factions had a similar problem: the discouraging side was sharing their negative experience, their failures and unmet expectations. Should you really let that influence your decision? The positive side was actually made of people who never experienced that situation. Wait what?
So how can you tell me that going to university as a mature student is worth it, if you actually did not do that? It was hard to find people from both sides who shared precise details about their experiences of starting university at a “later stage”.
After all, I can understand both sides: If you had a negative experience, why would you spend time sharing your frustration in detail? You would probably just say things like: waste of time, not worth it, it’s too late, nobody will hire you and so on. Trust me, I could continue with many other “answers” I found like that.
The more I was reading those, the more I was asking myself: should I return to education? Probably they are right, university as a mature student is not worth it. Why would anybody hire me over a younger graduate? What about fitting into the environment as a mature student? Those years would be a terrible experience!
The other side
On the other side, if you had a positive experience, you would probably have a completely different life by now; a job you like and a good salary, the famous career satisfaction!
Therefore, no need whatsoever to get involved in these discussions anymore, which justifies the lack of successful mature students’ stories shared in details. Whenever I found one, I would think: “probably this person was lucky, or knew somebody”.
Moreover, the majority of those super positive people never experienced university as a mature student! We are not talking about a decision that would impact few months here, we are talking about years!
So..is going to university as a mature student worth it?
As I mentioned above, the answer to this question seems to be difficult to find.. is it? You will find a lot of discouraging people while researching on internet. It is wise to hear both, positive and negative stories. I believe this can give you a more “realistic” picture of what to expect as a mature student.
However, when you evaluate those stories I would suggest you make few considerations. What about the reason why they went to university as mature students in the first place. Is it the same reason that is pushing you towards being a a mature student as well?
Do they have the same desire, the same hunger of knowledge? We are not all the same, we have different motivations, ambitions, goals, feelings and so on. The reason why I went to university as a mature student was a career change. I felt stuck in a job (hospitality) and I could not see a way out. Plus, I started to build ambitions.. very high ambitions!
At the end I was successful, graduating and finding a job few months later despite the Covid crisis. I won’t bore you with my story in this article, you can find it here if you are interested: “Starting University at 26 in the UK, my successful story”.
It doesn’t matter your age, or if you want to start a degree just out of interest rather than a career change. Everybody faces challenges in life, university is just one of those. It all depends on what you do when you see obstacles, do you turn back or do you keep going?
More considerations.. Degree choice
What about their Degree choice. Did they start a Degree just for the sake of doing one? Were they really interested in the subjects they chose? You cannot imagine how many students I have met that were not happy about their choice. The worst thing you can do in that case is waiting and not changing study path while you still can.
Some ended up dropping out very soon. Others studied till the end, graduated and did not even look for jobs in those areas afterwards. Choosing the right Degree is something that will determine the final outcome. It is extremely important! I wrote a post about that, you can find it here if interested: “What Degree should I do?”.
What University can give you as a mature student
Now let’s focus on the final outcome, what University can really give you as a mature student other than just a degree certificate. Being honest, this is what the majority of people are looking for: a change of life, knowledge, better jobs, career satisfaction, higher salaries and so on.
Remember what I said earlier, we do things analytically on here. At the end of the day, who am I to tell you university as a mature student is worth it? Just another story you find online, so let me give you some facts. Why returning to education is worth it:
The most obvious reason why you should go to University if you are looking for a career change. A degree can open so many more doors for jobs; and I mean better jobs that are higher paid and actually give the famous career satisfaction. You can check on any recruiting website and filter the results for degree as a requirement.
The amount of jobs that require that just to apply is massive. Not even to mention the graduate job market, where you can find graduate schemes and programmes only available for those with a degree! This alone makes going to university as a mature student worth it in my opinion.
Ideally you will start the career you always dreamed of, the one you studied for. However, another benefit is that there are many companies that do not require specific degrees, but still you need one to apply.
Consider that a “parachute” if you struggle to find the job you want soon. Therefore, if you do not have a degree, you are missing out on an enormous amount of job opportunities with high salaries and better work conditions.
A degree is an investment for life. It sits in your CV and never expires. It’s value is steady, why? For the reason above! It certifies your knowledge and it’s a requirement for better jobs and roles in big companies.
Regardless of the subject, it also shows your determination to achieve results, to deal with pressure and stress, to meet deadlines, to multitask and so on.
The way I think about going to University as a mature student is very similar to the financial world. In this case, you are investing in yourself, how on earth could that be a waste of time? I have talked about the relationship between studying and investing in this article if you are interested: “Why you should return to study now!”.
Guess what is the first thing that recruiters look for in the education section on your CV. No need to answer that, I know it perfectly. The more qualified you are, the more you can impress recruiters and increase your chances of finding a better job. Returning to education is always worth it!
When you are around a University campus you are surrounded by knowledgeable people. Making connections and establishing long lasting relationship can bring many benefits to your future career. You are also provided with many opportunities to do so, don’t waste them; webinars, career fairs, internships, insight days, conferences etc.
Make sure to attend those as well.. and make sure to be noticed! Networking was key for me in getting an internship, I would suggest you to do it too. Here I explain how I got an internship as a mature student, in this case for an SME. It was a wonderful experience!
Network also with your lecturers, make sure they know you for your skills and interests. Interacting during class and asking smart questions are great ways to do it! Many lecturers are involved in other businesses, consulting projects, research and important activities. Moreover, all of them have connections and can point you to the right direction (and person!) for your career.
Even your fellow students are not only your future competitors, they could also be great “allies”! Think about those who will become entrepreneurs and will need partners. They will need people who can trust, people they know that have great skillsets, make sure you are one of them! This works also the other way round! What about if you are planning to start your own business and need trustable highly skilled people?
Not to even mention those who already have a pre-agreed job in big companies after graduating? Some of them will become managers soon, others will work in HR departments. Let’s be honest, how many times have you heard of people getting a “job” with a little help from a friend?
University is a once in a lifetime experience! At the end of the day, who says we should all follow the same path and start university at the same age? Imagine how boring it would be, same arguments all over the campus. Diversity is a beautiful thing!
I’m not going to lie here, I believe that as a mature student your university experience will differ from the rest. It’s a huge psychological barrier, mature students often tend to isolate and struggle to fit into the environment. I remember that feeling, like I was observed and judged constantly.
My advice is just to be yourself, things will come naturally, and with them friends and social life. Even if not, forget about it and think your goal, why are you there? We all have a busy life, mature students probably even more, so do not let the environment influence you negatively!
Make the most out of university as a mature student according to what you need! If you always look at other students’ experiences, you will ruin yours. In this other post I shared some tips on how to be a successful mature student at university, you might find it useful!
If you are planning to launch your own company, project or research, Universities are great connectors. They can give you the right exposure to investors to raise funds, but also access to other kind of grants.
They will most likely provide you with business accelerator programmes, consultants and more. After all, if you succeed they gain reputation!
As a student you have access to different job search websites that you don’t even know the existence of. Large companies and multinational advertise their positions on these websites to attract the best academic talent.
Not even to mention (again) the on-site recruitment days where you will meet them, and their recruiters, directly!
Final considerations, going to University as a mature student.
When I was doing my research on whether or not “going to University as a mature student is worth it”, I could not find those answers I was looking for. This is what in the academic environment they call a “gap in the literature”. I hope I filled that gap, that was the reason why I wrote this article, and hopefully it will help you.
The final answer to the question “is going to university as a mature student worth it?”, is YES. You will get far many more job opportunities, an investment for life in your CV, the right connections to succeed in your career or own business, and the best resources for your job hunt or launching your own company! Obviously, without forgetting the most valuable thing: knowledge. With that, you can never go wrong!
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“Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their capabilities. They vary in their desire to reach their potential.” – John C. Maxwell