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I would definitely say this has been one of my biggest concerns before starting University at 26 as a mature student; along with my age, fitting into the 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 people very discouraging, 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 what my preferred approach is: analytical.
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.
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.
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. Therefore, no need whatsoever to get involved in these discussions anymore, which justifies the luck of successful mature students’ stories shared in details.
So… is going to university as a mature student worth it?
The short answer here is: ABSOLUTELY YES. As I mentioned above, 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.
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 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 finally have a job I enjoy and I earn much more than before. 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”.
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 course for you 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. Why returning to education as a mature student is worth it:
The most obvious reason why you should go to University. 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. 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 curriculum 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 of achieving a result, dealing with pressure, stress, meeting deadlines 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 being hired. Education is always worth it!
When you are around a University campus you are surrounded by knowledgeable and powerful people. Making connections and establishing long lasting relationship can bring many benefits for 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!
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 launch your own business and need trustable highly skilled people?
Not even to 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 seen of heard of people getting a “job” with a little help from friends?
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, a mature student going to University.
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 our 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!
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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