Integration of Mature and Younger Students

Mature students re-entering academic programs, face new challenges in terms of integrating with younger students, particularly when many of the mature students are baby boomers or retirees.

“Times have changed,” the mature student may say, as he or she looks around the classroom. “So have younger students. They all look so young!”

The younger students may look at the mature student with skepticism. “Is this where he or she belongs?”

Mature students face many challenges and integration with younger students is only one of them. “Youthful environment re-attaches us to younger self: hopes and fears…”

In reality, there have always been mature students intermixed with younger students, but perhaps the reality of our day is that there are more students, of all ages.

Consider the following tips if you are a mature student integrating with younger students.

Mature students benefit from integrating with younger students, simply because the majority of the younger students have already acquired current computer skills, training etc. Mature students need to become familiar with this mode of communication to succeed. While this is not a new realm for all mature students, many appreciate this reality.  

By establishing positive inter-personal relationships immediately and maintaining them, mature students draw from younger students’ body of academic knowledge and expertise. This will likely be different from the mature students’ earlier academic education and experience.  

Many younger students welcome the presence of mature students, because most of them have work experience, knowledge and skills sets that younger students will only acquire over time. Many younger students relate well to mature students who are the age of their parents or grandparents and enjoy that kind of relationship.

Unfortunately, that is not true in every situation. Some young students never really adapt to having mature students in their classroom. Mutual acceptance and tolerance are important in maintaining a successful learning environment for everyone.

In an academic setting, it should never be mature students versus younger students, although that can happen at times. Everyone is simply a student and in sharing mutual knowledge and wisdom, everyone’s academic horizons expand and everyone benefits.

In all academic circles, regardless of whether one is a mature student or a younger student, there should be integration, particularly with respect to pro-active, ambitious students. Younger students may immediately respect mature students, partly depending upon their upbringing. Unfortunately, that does not always happen.

Respect is accorded in academic circles as it is earned, not necessarily given to all mature students or younger students. Attempting to ‘be’ one of the younger students is not usually a good idea.

The mature student’s appearance, comportment, manner of speaking, etc. invariably sets a good example for younger students. Many mature students are already professionals in different academic areas and younger students recognize and acknowledge this.

Mature students who treat younger students with mutual respect lay the groundwork for effective integration in classroom settings.