Stevie Fox: My own overall experience as a student
Once I realised that it was OK not to know things, and got over myself being older and therefore thinking I ought to know what I was doing, I relaxed into the whole experience of being at University. Once the younger students in the study group stopped treating me as ‘an older person’ – i.e. asking permission to go and get a drink, or apologising to me for being late – and I could stop saying things like ‘I’m not your tutor/mum/granny’, I’m a student just like you’, and started including me in their jokes, insults and general conversations – I discovered how much we liked each other, and we got on really well. I would invite some of them over for a proper dinner now and again, and they in turn would help me with my study methods (the method of teaching in schools now is so far removed from my own experience) and my new mobile phone. Seriously.
One of the best things about being a mature student is that you have the confidence and life-skills that give you the ability to ask questions, to get to the point quickly and to know when you don’t know something. You are aware of the gaps in your knowledge, and are confident enough to address them with your tutors. Your tutors are not just there to deliver lectures. They will do everything they can to support you and are genuinely pleased if you reach out to them for help.
Another thing that I really enjoyed was being a Peer Guide, helping to welcome new students of all ages and to see them settle into the routine. I spent a lot of Welcome Weekend time with parents, who are always happy to see a mature person taking their child under their wing. It gave confidence to the parents, and it gave me quite a sense of pride and achievement, knowing they trusted me to look after their offspring. (In most cases the offspring didn’t want or need much looking after come the beginning of the semester proper. Job done). You can do this after your first year – help to make someone else’s first impression the very best it can be.
Get involved in as much as you can in other activities apart from study. You may not want to take to the stage, but go along and see some of the student productions, support the sports teams, etc. There are clubs and societies for everything. If your non-study time is limited due to other commitments, there is always something going on somewhere. It all adds to the making friends and being part of the student community.
Remember at all times that you are part of a wonderful institution – make the most of every single minute you can.
It’s your University, and an experience that will remain with you for the rest of your life. Above all - ENJOY YOURSELF.
Stevie’s Top Tips for mature students
- Don’t think you ‘should know it’ because you are older than some of the other students in your group. I struggled with this – until I realised…
- You have not been taught it yet.
- Don’t be nervous of the younger students in your group. They are probably even more nervous of you than you are of them.
- You all share the same steep learning curve assignments and deadlines.
- You know things they don’t – budgeting, cooking, health care etc.
- They know things you don’t – technology, fashion, music etc.
- SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE of all things – learn together. MAKE FRIENDS.
- Ask even the most obvious questions of your tutors. Don’t try and guess your way through something that you don’t really understand.
- There is no shame in having gaps in your education.
- Unless you ask for help, your tutor will assume you can manage.
- If you are struggling – speak to your tutor. Mature students sometimes have different concerns, home and family pressures, child care, etc.
- Tutors are human – they understand that other things have a call on your time too.
- If you can’t make it to a lecture/seminar – contact the office and let them know. Don’t rely on a message being passed along by another student – they may forget.
- If you have to be absent - ask someone to share their notes so you can catch up. You don’t get another chance at any lecture.
- Buy a voice recorder and record your lectures (you should ask permission of the lecturer).
- Play them back alongside your notes to develop your knowledge and revise for exams.
- Also handy for any reading recommendations which may come during a lecture. The words come at you very quickly.