Applying to a standard-age college as a 25 y/o mature student?

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ChrisThompson56
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Hi,

I'm planning to apply to Cambridge as a mature student to study maths. One of the things putting me off the prospect of applying to a mature college is the fact that I might be the *only* maths undergraduate in a particular year at that college, which could feel very isolating. I've also been told that you don't quite get the same "Cambridge experience" at mature colleges, and often the academic side isn't quite as organised and efficient in terms of supervisions etc.

So I'm exploring the prospect of applying to standard-age colleges. There are a few colleges that seem quite welcoming to non-traditional students, which is reassuring.

What I was wondering is: Am I likely to feel out-of-place as a mature student at a standard-age college? I don't know whether this matters, but I don't actually look my age - most people think I look as if I'm in my early twenties. And I tend to make friends with people based on shared interest/hobbies, as opposed to being the same age as them. Do people at Cambridge hang out with students from different years a lot? Is college life *mixed*; i.e. do all years intermingle? There might be a bit of a difference in terms of life experience between eighteen years olds and myself, but I would probably just try and find some societies to join and meet like-minded people through them.
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Reality Check
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Lots to unpick here.

(Original post by ChrisThompson56)
Hi,

I'm planning to apply to Cambridge as a mature student to study maths. One of the things putting me off the prospect of applying to a mature college is the fact that I might be the *only* maths undergraduate in a particular year at that college, which could feel very isolating.
There won't be loads, no. But it's unlikely you'd be the only one.

I've also been told that you don't quite get the same "Cambridge experience" at mature colleges,
What does that mean, though - 'Cambridge experience'? You don't say how old you are, which is highly relevant here. If you're a fair bit older than 18 (and I don't mean 40s or something), then surely the things that would appeal to your JustLeftHome18-year-old wouldn't appeal to you anyway? A mature college isn't knitting and Ovaltine and bed by 9.45pm: but it's also set up for slightly older people who aren't quite as immature and annoying as an 18-year-old fresher. Surely this is a good thing, non?

and often the academic side isn't quite as organised and efficient in terms of supervisions etc.
Don't know who told you this, but it's a pile of crap. Supervision is just as good, or better, in a mature college because it's set up for non-standard students like you! You'll always get the best supervision, and if the best person isn't available at your own college, you're supervised out of college, in the same way as all other students are.



What I was wondering is: Am I likely to feel out-of-place as a mature student at a standard-age college?
Highly likely, particularly given:

but I don't actually look my age - most people think I look as if I'm in my early twenties.
So we're actually talking late 20s/30s as your actual age?

And I tend to make friends with people based on shared interest/hobbies, as opposed to being the same age as them. Do people at Cambridge hang out with students from different years a lot? Is college life *mixed*; i.e. do all years intermingle? There might be a bit of a difference in terms of life experience between eighteen years olds and myself, but I would probably just try and find some societies to join and meet like-minded people through them.
I would strongly recommend that you apply to a mature college. Mature students, in my experience, do have issues fitting in at standard-age colleges. This isn't something bad: it's just to be expected. However 'young' you might feel, it's highly unlikely that you will want to do the same things as the 18/19-year-old freshers in the rest of your cohort. Which is isolating. If you want to find societies, then there's a million and one societies at university level, rather than college level. I actually changed college between my undergrad and postgrad, and I'm really glad I did. I can't think of anything more irritating than to be stuck at a college with a load of kids when you've done all that and moved on, and you'll be surprised how much time you spend in college, even if you live out.

Briefly, mature colleges are set up to deal with mature students, and are best placed to deal with the pastoral issues and academic issue which sometimes (actually, often) crop up with this group of students. Additionally, 'mature' colleges tend to be mainly postgrad colleges, which means that you will be spending most of your time with people in their mid-to-late 20s who aren't screaming kids like at undergrad colleges, but have much more in common with you. Why anyone would choose to go to a standard-age college as a mature student is completely beyond me.
Last edited by Reality Check; 11 months ago
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ChrisThompson56
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(Original post by Reality Check)
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Thanks for your response. Sorry, I don't know how to 'quote' and 'unquote', so this format will have to do:

> There won't be loads, no. But it's unlikely you'd be the only one.

Wolfson don't do Maths, and I can't apply to Lucy Cavendish as I'm male, so the only two mature colleges that I could apply to would be Hughes Hall or St Edmunds. Using this link, I was able to find the application statistics for mathematics undergraduates at these two colleges over the past five years. There is a lot of variation on a year-by-year basis. At Hughes Hall, there was 1 applicant who was accepted for maths in 2016 and 2017, 3 in 2018, and 5 in 2019. At St Edmunds, there was 2 in 2016, 6 in 2017, and 0 in 2018 or 2019. Although, to be fair, there were a lot more applicants and offers given out than I was expecting. For example, Hughes Hall has made 18 offers to maths applicants for 2020 entry, but 14 of these were Winter Pool offers (so presumably 14 mature applicants are applying to standard-age colleges).

> What does that mean, though - 'Cambridge experience'? You don't say how old you are, which is highly relevant here. If you're a fair bit older than 18 (and I don't mean 40s or something), then surely the things that would appeal to your JustLeftHome18-year-old wouldn't appeal to you anyway? A mature college isn't knitting and Ovaltine and bed by 9.45pm: but it's also set up for slightly older people who aren't quite as immature and annoying as an 18-year-old fresher. Surely this is a good thing, non?

I'll be 26 when I start my undergraduate degree. The thing is, because of factors that were largely out of my control (i.e. being ill), I wasn't able to go to university at the same time as most of my school peers, so I missed out on a lot of the "university experience" that I was always looking forward to - partying, socializing, meeting new people etc. I realise that it would be absolutely pathetic for a man in his mid-twenties to be frequenting nightclubs with a bunch of eighteen year olds, but I'm also a little worried that a lot of the people at mature colleges might feel as if they've already gotten that stage of their life out of their system and have no interest in it. Are mature students usually still heavily involved in the social aspects of student life?

> Don't know who told you this, but it's a pile of crap. Supervision is just as good, or better, in a mature college because it's set up for non-standard students like you! You'll always get the best supervision, and if the best person isn't available at your own college, you're supervised out of college, in the same way as all other students are.

It was a post on Quora from a former mature-student at Cambridge that sort of made me have second thoughts about applying to a mature college. She said that the Director of Studies at a mature college often has difficulties finding good supervisors for mature undergraduates. Are you saying that this wouldn't be an issue because the majority of my supervisions as a mathmo would be at other colleges, anyway? Another point she made was that a lot of the people at mature students are doing one-year Masters courses, so it can be more difficult to form lasting relationships compared to undergraduates at standard-age colleges, who are going through the whole degree with their cohort.
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Reality Check
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(Original post by ChrisThompson56)
Thanks for your response. Sorry, I don't know how to 'quote' and 'unquote', so this format will have to do:
Quote the post initially and then wrap the HTML tags [ quote] and [ /quote] around the bits you want to quote (minus the spaces in my examples



> There won't be loads, no. But it's unlikely you'd be the only one.

Wolfson don't do Maths, and I can't apply to Lucy Cavendish as I'm male, so the only two mature colleges that I could apply to would be Hughes Hall or St Edmunds. Using this link, I was able to find the application statistics for mathematics undergraduates at these two colleges over the past five years. There is a lot of variation on a year-by-year basis. At Hughes Hall, there was 1 applicant who was accepted for maths in 2016 and 2017, 3 in 2018, and 5 in 2019. At St Edmunds, there was 2 in 2016, 6 in 2017, and 0 in 2018 or 2019. Although, to be fair, there were a lot more applicants and offers given out than I was expecting. For example, Hughes Hall has made 18 offers to maths applicants for 2020 entry, but 14 of these were Winter Pool offers (so presumably 14 mature applicants are applying to standard-age colleges).
Thanks for the updated stats - and I was unaware that Wolfson had stopped offering undergrad maths. Also, note that Lucy is accepting male applicants from 2021, but that doesn't mean it would necessarily be a choice of yours - I don't know. Anyway, the upshot of your data is that there aren't a lot of mathmos at mature colleges, which is indeed true.

Are mature students usually still heavily involved in the social aspects of student life?
Good lord yes! I was probably more involved as a postgrad than I was an undergrad, but this might be more a function of time and 'relaxing' into it than anything. Mature students are often to be found on things like ball committees, the college JCR committee and things like that, often because they've developed the skills to thrive at these things. Again though, this is all generalisation: you get quiet, introverted 18 year old, and loud, extroverted 35-year olds. I don't know how useful generalising based on age is, to be honest with you.

She said that the Director of Studies at a mature college often has difficulties finding good supervisors for mature undergraduates. Are you saying that this wouldn't be an issue because the majority of my supervisions as a mathmo would be at other colleges, anyway? Another point she made was that a lot of the people at mature students are doing one-year Masters courses, so it can be more difficult to form lasting relationships compared to undergraduates at standard-age colleges, who are going through the whole degree with their cohort.
Yeah, I'm really not sure the basis that she's making this claim. You'd have the same access to supervisors in a mature college as you would at a standard-age one. Obviously a standard-age one, with a large cohort of mathmos, is going to be more used to finding and organsing supervisors for their students, but that doesn't mean a mature college is going to have some great difficulty in doing it. It might be more streamlined at a standard-age one, but I don't think that's really all that important.

Some students at 'grad' colleges will be doing one-year M.Phils or the like - but plenty more will be doing PhDs, GEM or vetmed - so there's a much larger cohort of 3/4 year plus students. Thus, I don't think there's any worry about being able to form long-lasting relationships with people.

In the end, people can and do apply to standard-age colleges as mature undergrads. Personally, I don't recommend this, for the reasons I sketched out earlier. But that doesn't mean it's wrong per se. Reading between the lines, I feel that the 'university experience' is an important consideration for you - and if you're happy living with 18-year olds and doing much the same things as they would, then maybe consider a standard-age college. Also, a 'standard-age' college also always has a contingent of maturer students in terms of graduates etc, so it's not like you'd solely be with children. People always find others who they have things in common with and 'click' with, regardless of age, background etc - both at college and in the wider university. I appreciate what you're saying about a dearth of mathmos at mature colleges, and this is another good reason why you might consider a standard-age college instead.

Hopefully this and my preceding post has put some stuff into context a bit more with mature colleges Have you made any contact with standard-age colleges at all? I'm going to tag in Peterhouse Admissions here for their take on this for you too.
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by ChrisThompson56)
..........
Mountain > molehill. It doesn't make a jot of difference unless you want it to. I went to an all-ages College aged 38 and again aged... well a lot more. I'm the oldest on my course by...well a lot more again. It makes no difference to how you get on with people unless you want it to. No-one cares, it's not school. Adults don't make friends on the basis of age.
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FRS500
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(Original post by Reality Check)
Lots to unpick here.



There won't be loads, no. But it's unlikely you'd be the only one.



What does that mean, though - 'Cambridge experience'? You don't say how old you are, which is highly relevant here. If you're a fair bit older than 18 (and I don't mean 40s or something), then surely the things that would appeal to your JustLeftHome18-year-old wouldn't appeal to you anyway? A mature college isn't knitting and Ovaltine and bed by 9.45pm: but it's also set up for slightly older people who aren't quite as immature and annoying as an 18-year-old fresher. Surely this is a good thing, non?



Don't know who told you this, but it's a pile of crap. Supervision is just as good, or better, in a mature college because it's set up for non-standard students like you! You'll always get the best supervision, and if the best person isn't available at your own college, you're supervised out of college, in the same way as all other students are.





Highly likely, particularly given:



So we're actually talking late 20s/30s as your actual age?



I would strongly recommend that you apply to a mature college. Mature students, in my experience, do have issues fitting in at standard-age colleges. This isn't something bad: it's just to be expected. However 'young' you might feel, it's highly unlikely that you will want to do the same things as the 18/19-year-old freshers in the rest of your cohort. Which is isolating. If you want to find societies, then there's a million and one societies at university level, rather than college level. I actually changed college between my undergrad and postgrad, and I'm really glad I did. I can't think of anything more irritating than to be stuck at a college with a load of kids when you've done all that and moved on, and you'll be surprised how much time you spend in college, even if you live out.

Briefly, mature colleges are set up to deal with mature students, and are best placed to deal with the pastoral issues and academic issue which sometimes (actually, often) crop up with this group of students. Additionally, 'mature' colleges tend to be mainly postgrad colleges, which means that you will be spending most of your time with people in their mid-to-late 20s who aren't screaming kids like at undergrad colleges, but have much more in common with you. Why anyone would choose to go to a standard-age college as a mature student is completely beyond me.
You really do live up to your username.

Because that was one hell of a reality check I cannot lie!
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Jonah9000
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(Original post by FRS500)
You really do live up to your username.

Because that was one hell of a reality check I cannot lie!
I have to agree with Threeportdrift. Age doesn’t really matter. I’m studying psychotherapy on a course with a lot of people in their fifties and sixties and we all get on fine, and when I studied my MA at Exeter, I lived in a house full of second years, and we had a whale of a time partying and socialising. I get on with 18 year olds and 80 year olds because we’re all just human beings. So long as you don’t place barriers between yourself and the younger students, they will accept you as one of their own, and it sounds like that’s what you want, the original undergraduate experience, carefree partying and frantic studying! So go for it!
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artful_lounger
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I would note Lucy Cavendish is becoming a mixed sex, standard entry (non-mature) college for programmes starting from 2021: https://www.varsity.co.uk/news/17319

So you would be eligible to apply for entry from that year, but all of the caveats of standard entry colleges then may apply...perhaps to a lesser extent initially as the current mature undergrads graduate out over the next few years and it shakes the perception of being a mature college perhaps.
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