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How to return to study as a mature age student

Studying a new course can be challenging for all types of students, but if you haven’t studied formally for years, are working full-time, or if you’re looking after children or family members, it can seem even more overwhelming.

But before you place the idea of studying firmly in the ‘too hard’ basket, take some time to consider the potential benefits of becoming a mature age student. Whether you’re returning to the workforce after some time out or have discovered a new field or passion, gaining a qualification can help equip you with skills needed to return to work successfully, prepare you for a career change and even give you a new lease on life.

Luckily, there are ways to make the process of going back to study as enjoyable - and manageable - as possible.

Choose a flexible study program

If you’re juggling other commitments such as family or work, it’s a good idea to look for courses you can study part-time, or that are offered entirely online. Some online courses are also self-paced, so you can complete units at a time that suits you best, rather than being stuck to a set timetable.

If you’re able to dedicate more hours to study, a self-paced course could also be your opportunity to finish the course in a shorter time frame - meaning you’ll be on your way to reaching your career goals sooner than you think!

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Plan your time effectively

The key to managing your time is good organisation, and that starts with preparation. Before your course commences, make sure you have a clear picture of your weekly timetable so you can make any necessary arrangements (such as childcare for the kids or adjusting your working hours).

Make sure you properly understand how many study hours you’ll need to commit to each week, and take note of all assessments and deadlines in the coming months.

Rely on the support available to you

Most universities and colleges offer support services such as counselling or extra tuition for those feeling overwhelmed – take advantage of these! You’ll also find it helpful to be open and honest with your lecturers and tutors if you need to miss a class, or have questions around course materials. In addition, lean on your family and friends if they offer their time to ease your load, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Build a social and professional network

Being in a new environment is a great opportunity to make new connections. Having friends at university or college will make the whole experience more enjoyable as you’ll be able to share your ups and downs of the course together.

If you’re studying online, make full use of any online portals, forums and groups available to you in order to stay connected with those also studying your course.

It’s also the perfect time to network with people in your industry, whether that’s attending events, reaching out to companies of interest or meeting with recruiters. While you’re studying, you’ll be immersed in your industry, and well-placed to pave the way for landing a graduate job.

Embrace new technology

Whether you’re someone who’s addicted to the latest Apple products or you’ve never downloaded an app in your life, embracing new technology can really be advantageous to you in the world of education.

If you’re still feeling unsure how to use a program or device after asking for a demonstration in or after class, the best way to find the answer is to (ironically) ask Google! Reading blogs and watching YouTube tutorials are free and easy ways to get step-by-step advice so you can build on your proficiency. Practice really does make perfect, so taking the time to get to know the software with your own two hands will make it seem less daunting and more familiar with time.