The secret life of a mature student

Cáit Caden and Judy Williams

Deciding to return to education can be a tough decision financially.

Life can be a race. Many view it with a start and finish line. The beginning and end of this race is often looked at one of two ways. The young self to the old self or the start of a career and the end of the career. What happens in the middle is often overlooked. Yet there are some champions of energy that get a second wind and prove, that reaching a goal at any stage is not impossible.

Mature students accounted for 20 per cent of those studying in institutes, in addition with 11 per cent of those studying in universities. There were in total 1,966 people aged 30 years and over that entered undergraduate programmes by the 1stof January 2018.

Many mature students enter a system where they are surrounded by people young enough to be their children. Some of those that go back into the education system thrive to even end up teaching third level students themselves.

“Going to university as a mature student was one of the best things I have ever done. It quite literally changed my life. I would say to anyone worried about keeping up with the smart students fresh out of school, not to lose sight of the value of life experience it is just as useful, possibly even more useful in university than leaving cert points,” said Adjunct Assistant Professor at the ADAPT Centre in Trinity College, Dr Sabina Brennan.

Brennan is currently the principle investigator in E-Health and a Neuroscientist. At the age of 40, Brennan went back to third level education to study psychology. She is now the author of ‘100 Days to a Younger Brain’. Her book launch was attended by some of the best minds in the country such as renowned journalist Ursula Halligan. All of this would not be possible if she did not decide to become a masters student.

Whether it was financial, family reasons or indecisiveness that stopped them from achieving a burning academic desire, it is the general consensus that those who return to get higher qualifications do not regret their decision.

“I think adult education is fabulous and I’m so glad I got a second chance to prove to myself that I actually have half a brain,” said 3rd year History and Geography student in DCU’s St Pat’s Roisin Flynn.

Yet, Flynn is conscious of the age difference between her and her peers as she stated that even though she “love teenagers” and even has two of them herself, she does “wish there had been a few more mature students around.”

Although most mature students go back to college for higher qualification purposes rather than social reasons, there remains a desire amongst mature students to be around peers of a similar age group.

“I do know a few,” said Flynn about fellow mature students around campus, “but the way our timetables are managed, I never seem to get a chance to hook up with them, as in between classes I’m too busy,” she said.

Despite some obstacles, Flynn stated: “while it has been exhausting, I’m glad I signed up.”

Being thrown back into college life can definitely be stressful.

UCD Politics and History 2018 graduate John Morrissey believes it “becomes easier if you get things organised early in the course and don’t leave things until the last minute.”

“Sometimes it is easier to be an adult learner or mature student, than a young person starting out – there is less pressure to achieve when you are older whereas the whole future of a younger person can be determined by what they achieve in college,” he added.

Even 100-year-old Joe Veselsky and 92-year-old Joe McGovern that are attending courses in Trinity prove that it is never too late for any average Joe wanting to go back to education.

By Cáit Caden and Judy Williams

Image Credit: Pxhere