University as a mature age student
Commencing a new course or returning to study may be a difficult process, especially if you have been out of the education scene for some time. Allow yourself time to make this new transition and to adjust to university life. There are a number of services at UTS dedicated to support people in your position.
We’ve put together a selection of useful tips for helping you adjust.
Develop a network
Develop a network of friends and acquaintances on and off campus.
- Attend faculty welcomes and other orientation activities. The first few weeks are the best time to meet other people in your course and academic staff in your area.
- Keep an eye out for clubs and societies you might like to join - activateuts.com.au
- Make an effort to meet fellow students and staff.
- Share your experiences with family and friends so that they can support you. Let them know about your schedules, your busy times, your need for quiet, and your need for support. If they are fully informed, they are more likely to feel part of the process and will be in a better position to support you.
- If you experience personal or academic problems seek help early. Services providing a range of assistance, include Counselling, Health, Accessibility Service, Financial Assistance, Careers and HELPS.
Get to know your campus, your course and the resources available to you.
- Important information about course structure, organization and assessment issues is often given in early lectures.
- Keep an eye on faculty noticeboards and websites.
- Find the locations of your student centre and your main lecture venues.
- Find a place in the library where you feel comfortable to work, check out the sports complex, the union building, student services and the various food outlets.
- Get to know the library website and become familiar with searching for information online. Library offers training workshops.
- If you’re not comfortable with using computers, or surfing the internet, then returning to study may be a good opportunity to upgrade your skills. Take the time to practice and embrace technology. Through library website check out Lynda.com (opens an external site), for free access to online tutorials in latest technology.
- Read your faculty and course information.
- The more time you spend on campus, the more you will start to feel a part of the place. Remember that campus is your place too.
Plan your time
Time management is a crucial issue for all students but particularly for mature age students who are often juggling study with work and family commitments.
- A timetable can help keep track of your time.
- Spend a similar amount of time each week on each subject. Listing tasks in writing is a form of commitment to complete them.
- Think about how you learn best. Do you prefer to work early in the morning or late at night? Are you happy to juggle several pieces of work at one time or are you more comfortable working on one assignment at a time? Be realistic about your preferences.
- Learn to prioritise. You can’t do everything, but you can always do something. Set private deadlines for assignments, which are ahead of true ones; this way you have some leeway if family emergencies, work deadlines or illness strikes.
- Plan times you can relax without feeling guilty. If you are well organized, it is possible to fit in several study blocks over the weekend, while still including family time.
Returning to study is a wonderful opportunity to think, learn and expand your knowledge. At the same time you need to be realistic about what is expected of you, what you expect of yourself and what is possible.
- Acknowledge changes. Most students undergo some transition process in adjusting to university life. You may initially feel frustrated by a lack of direction or the limited contact with academic staff. At the same time you may be grappling with the discourse of a new discipline and undeveloped academic skills. Accept that this is the case.
- Juggling the demands of study with work and family life involves many challenges. Consider your commitments and be realistic. Review how much time and energy you need to allow for any paid work and carer responsibilities. For more information on carer responsibilities and your study, check out our pages on carers. If you realise you have enrolled in too many subjects, consider varying your enrolment before the census date.
- Allow yourself time to settle into your new study regime. Perfectionism and unachievable goals will quickly demoralise.
- Learn to value your own achievements and don’t judge your progress solely on the basis of the marks you receive. Remember that academic skills, which you may lack if you have not studied for years, can usually be learned. For information on academic literacy check out the HELPS service.
- Review your study load before census date
It’s not unusual to lose motivation at some stage during your studies. Everyone gets bored with study and with putting the rest of their lives on hold while they complete their degrees. At such times it is useful to revisit your reasons for deciding to study.
- Focus on why you are doing this course or subject. Writing a list of your goals and current problems can sometimes help you to regain perspective.
- Focus on the objectives for each of your subjects. Examine your course and subject outlines carefully and try to determine how the topic fits in with the course objectives.
- Use relaxation or stress management techniques to get you through the tough times. Have a look at the information on dealing with stress.
Encourage and reward yourself for submitting work on time, completing a difficult tutorial sheet, understanding a complex theoretical concept, participating in an oral presentation or simply for keeping on top of your work load.
- Take the opportunity to share your successes and achievements with the people who are important to you.
- Recognize the progress you make and remember to give yourself credit for your achievements.
Be aware of where you can get help
Many students run into difficulties at some stage of their course. At University you are expected to be an independent learner, but that does not mean that you have to handle all of your problems on your own. There are lots of people on campus who can help you, but it’s up to you to ask for assistance.
- Get to know your lecturers and tutors and seek help if you are having difficulties with your study.
- If you are having problems with your work, other students on the course can often be a great source of help and support. Working collaboratively with others to solve problems or brainstorming ideas can benefit everyone.
- If you are having personal problems which are affecting your studies, make an appointment with the Counselling Service.
Please note: links listed below open in external sites. UTS is not responsible for any content or information therein.
- Study Guides and Strategies: Study guides and strategies
Acknowledgement: This information was adapted with the permission of Academic Skills, University of Melbourne.