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  • Mature student profiles - Science and Engineering students

The best way to find out what it’s like as a Science or Engineering mature student is to ask some mature students. So that’s what we’ve done. Below are experiences and top tips from TSR members who have returned to or entered Higher Education at a later stage in life.

If you have your own questions about what life is like as a mature student visit our mature student forum and post up a new thread you’re sure to get a helpful and swift response.

Mark_Patterson_mature_student.PNG

Name: Mark Patterson

Age: 31

Studied: HND in Civil Engineering at Solent University in Southampton

Comments: I was keen to get into the world of work after I left school but later realised that I would need better qualifications to do well in Civil Engineering. When applying to university, I left my application quite late and was worried I wouldn't be able to get onto the course but the university was really helpful and the whole process was actually more straightforward than I expected. Having a higher level of qualifications has help me progress further in my career and enabled me to earn a higher salary.




TSR Username: Zarogue

Age:37

Studying: BSc Chemistry, University of Pymouth, Full Time

Reasons for returning back to education as a mature student?

The job I found myself in after leaving the army, was leaving me with a feeling that I was wasting my life away, there was scope for later promotion but the job didn't do anything for me. I felt I was capable of more and without any further training/education there was no way to escape doing that sort of job for the rest of my working life.

How are you funding yourself?

Just...Student Finance, I was part time van driving, although I've just lost that job through my boss ending the contract on the round I was working on. Looking for something else atm. Wife works part-time and is also studying, working towards Early Years Professional Status

Where do you live?

Plymouth, We have our own house and a £50k mortgage.

What were you doing before?

12 years in the Army , left in 2004. Then 6 months as a Postman before almost three years at he local newspaper press site.

Did you need to refresh your study skills (essay writing etc.)? If so how did you do it?

Yes, I had taken A-Levels, but in 1990 and didn't do particularly well. I approached the University directly about taking a degree and they required me to take their Foundation Science year, which is a route I would fully recommend.

Challenges with being a mature student?

Being married and having two children, my main struggles are with finance and time management. We are lucky that my wife works at the after-school club for next-door to my youngest son's school so when I have later lectures childcare is not a problem. Finding time and a place to study at home is sometimes difficult especially when my wife is also studying, she's taking her maths and english GCSE's as well as a Foundation degree.

Best bits about being a mature student?

Especially as an older mature student i.e. over 30 I feel that you are treated slightly differently by tutors as they realise that you have made a big commitment and have a lot to lose by not succeeding. Your life experiences help you to cope with situations both in and out of class. There is no peer pressure to go out every night and leave coursework 'til the last minute.

How do you find being older than most students?

At 37, I'm almost twice the age of about 1/3 of the course, there is only one other student over 30. I have made some good friends, they know my domestic situation and realise that I have a different social agenda to the majority of them and it has never been an issue.

What I hope to gain?

A good class of degree and the chance to start a second career.

How do your children/husband/wife find you being a student (if applicable)?

They have been very supportive, as mentioned before my wife is a student too, which helps.

Any tips for other people contemplating becoming a mature student?

Think about what's most important to you in a choice of Uni, degree choice, location etc. because I didn't want to move I went directly to my local one. As previous posters said remember you are paying for all this so make the most of it. Take your time in choosing your degree, I changed my mind during the foundation year. Don't be put off by thinking you will be out of place, you won't be. Think about the finances well in advance too and keep on top of all the paperwork, I've lost count of the number of times I've had to send of evidence of this that and the other for student finance or tax credits etc.



TSR Username: moonkatie

Age: 24

Studying: Currently studying Human Biology, Forensic Science, Archaeological Sciences and Scientific Maths with the Open University. I will be switching to a 'brick' University in October to study Archaeology & Anthropology (grades permitting) at the University of Cambridge. Part Time currently, Full Time from October

Reasons for returning back to education as a mature student?

I attempted to have a 'career' without returning to education but there was no denying that it just wasn't my calling in life.

How are you funding yourself?

Full time study will be funded by loans, grants, bursaries and my pathetic attempt at saving.

Where do you live?

I rent privately and will continue to do so.

What were you doing before?

Most recently, fraud investigation - nicely paid, mortgage, (relatively) secure life.

Did you need to refresh your study skills (essay writing etc.)? If so how did you do it?

Hopefully two years of work with the OU at both first and second year level will be good preparation.

Challenges with being a mature student?

Finances and time - I am often lacking in both.

Best bits about being a mature student?

I know exactly what I want to do. Had I completed a degree earlier I would most certainly have taken a course that was not right for me. It's also helpful that my 'just left home, every night out on the lash' days are over and I can focus on the work.

How do you find being older than most students?

This isn't really applicable to me at present, but it's not something that I'm unduly concerned about.

What I hope to gain?

A good class of degree in a discipline that I adore. Long-term, I would like to continue my education past undergraduate level.

How do your children/husband/wife find you being a student (if applicable)?

My daughter is too young to really be aware of it at present. There is a certain level of guilt on my part when I am trying to hurry her to bed as I have an approaching deadline, and I'm sure it'll only get worse once I'm dropping her off at nursery every morning... one day I'd like to think that she will understand my choices and be happy with the life that I am making for us.

Any tips for other people contemplating becoming a mature student?

Do your research. Whilst some Universities are very good at dealing with the demands of mature students, you may well find that others are totally hopeless and you're out there on your own. The information is out there, it's just not always very easy to find. Talking with other mature students on forums (such as TSR) can be a huge help.


TSR Username: ShinyApple

Age: 25

Studying: Full Time, Physics at the University of Leeds

Reasons for returning back to education as a mature student?

I wasn't satisfied with my first degree and didn't want to pursue it as a career, so looked at what I enjoyed and tried to find a way to study it and make a career out of it in the end.

How are you funding yourself?

Work, work, and more work. Funding can be hard as a mature student, especially with other caring responsibilities (which thankfully I do not have). However, it is possible and there is help out there.

Where do you live?

I live in a shared house just the same as any other student would. It has worked fine for me, since there are actually a lot of other older students out there such as postgraduates and medics. Even if you're a lot older than myself, living in a shared house is totally possible and can be a really great way to make sure you enjoy the social side of university life as well.

What were you doing before?

I was working and studying. Pretty much the same as now. I did have a full-time job at one point as a bar manager. It depressed me quite badly as I knew there wasn't much of a future in it. Also, I knew I could achieve more.

Did you need to refresh your study skills (essay writing etc.)? If so how did you do it?

I took a course which involved improving study skills called "Transferable Skills". There I was helped to update my skills and learn things like referencing properly, which is a very important area of university study at the moment. I also met a lot of other student like me. Most universities offer such workshops. Try to get in contact with your lifelong learning centre.

Challenges with being a mature student?

My biggest challenge was getting my brain back into gear after a break. I found that many of my fellow students flew through 1st year, whereas I found it a lot harder to do. I spent a lot of time in the library with the foreign students. In the end though it was worth it as I felt I was more prepared for the subsequent years.

Best bits about being a mature student?

I find that many people look to me for the answers to the world around them. I have made some really great friends of all ages, but it's a great feeling to think that you really have helped people. It's also a far better learning experience now that I have the will to study as opposed to just wanting to spend 3 years having a party!

How do you find being older than most students?

It's not a major problem for me, because I am not that much older than most of them. However, sometime I find I am much more mature and have to hold back on judging others because of their maturity. I initially got into arguments with people who simply didn't have my maturity level, and it would frustrate me. However, as I said, it's great to help those who are a little clueless about the student life their rights.

What I hope to gain?

I hope to get into a great job, but I've also learnt that there is much to be gained from university. I've really got involved in many areas of university life and met many people from many different backgrounds. My viewpoints have been changed dramatically over the years and it's been a fantastic way to learn about humans in general.

How do your children/husband/wife find you being a student (if applicable)?

I don't have them, but my girlfriend has been really supportive, despite having finished a year before I started. She found it difficult that our two different social lives did not mix very well, but it has worked out fine.

Any tips for other people contemplating becoming a mature student?

Many universities are offering buddying schemes for mature students and also have union reps for them. Try to get in contact with them and also go to see the people at the lifelong learning centre. These people can really give you a point in the right direction even if you don't think you need it.




TSR Username: MarshallJT

Age: 21

Studying: I am currently on an Access to Higher Education course, It’s a full science based course with one related "bridge" subject and Study Skills (Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Environmental Science). Enough to cover a range of locations should the second requirement for my intended degree differ between Chem or Environmental Science. Full Time Reasons for returning back to education as a mature student?

I always intended to go into higher education, but due to family issues and massive arguments with many schools and colleges I generally lost faith in the 14 - 19 education system when I was around those ages. But I always enjoyed myself and worked hard and passed when I participated in Undergraduate level workshops ran by my local University.

So in order to get myself out of the cycle I was in and to get me into a set of work that I want to do in the future I decided I would have to do the access course. Thinking back I was somewhat negatively biased towards considering doing anything like an Access course even over the standard route (which I hated with a passion) when I was a few years younger than I am. But thinking about where I am now, I really should've attempted the join the access course in previous years as what I did exclusively last year was incorporated into it anyways.

How are you funding yourself?

A combination of set aside funds and student finance/ bursaries...etc

Where do you live?

I live in an inner city apartment, if it wasn't a perk of the job I wouldn't be able to afford it.

What were you doing before?

Working as a caretaker, if you mean before that then I was going from house to house/ shelter as I was effectively homeless due to being an early casualty to the events leading up to the current recession.

Did you need to refresh your study skills (essay writing etc.)? If so how did you do it?

Yes and no, as it depends on which study skill your talking about. I have written a lot of essays and assignments over the year and never really forgot how to write one but as far as research papers and census reports I needed to learn them from scratch as I had never used them and they are crucial for my future intentions.

Challenges with being a mature student?

Balancing time/ Time Management, also putting up with things your not keen on within your course (like when your being learning from a book and the answers it says are correct are wrong! and a big argument in class begins as to why we are learning from a book that is wrong).

Best bits about being a mature student?

Greater leniency when it comes to attendance and how far behind you can get on work before staff start to drop hints or outright confront you. Meaning that there is generally less grief and stress in the learning environment.

How do you find being older than most students?

Well being 21, I am not exactly older than most students. I am at more or less the same age as people on Post graduate level courses or people who have taken a single gap year from education. So the only thing that I could say is that some of the older students (30+ in age) are generally less likely to talk or approach me because I am younger meaning sometimes it can get a bit lonely in lessons.

What I hope to gain?

Qualifications to get me closer to my goal of being an Ecologist, though in general I guess to get enough work done to get into a degree course.

How do your children/husband/wife find you being a student (if applicable)?

Not applicable, as I am single and without kids. But I share the apartment and work (the job I/ we do is a 24/7 type of job) we another person. Though we pick up after each other should the other need time off for one reason or another. So there are rarely any real conflicts of interest.

Any tips for other people contemplating becoming a mature student?

Get as much information as you possibly can about what you intend to do or become and what routes you can go to achieve this. If I had done that I would have been on my second year at university by now, instead of still working towards it.

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