Returning to school after a period of time away can be a daunting prospect. Many mature students are concerned about being that much older than their classmates, worried that they will not be able to cope with the course because of their lack of familiarity with the education system. However, much of this fear will turn out to be unnecessary. Mature students tend to have developed a lot of skills over the course of their lives that will prove to be exceptionally useful when returning to school. Some of these include:
Students straight out of school tend to have shocking time management skills, often because their lives have been mapped out for them in the past, either by teachers or by parents. Suddenly, it is necessary to organise their own time and it can be a huge challenge, especially when there are so many other distractions. However, mature students have already had time to become accustomed to organising their lives, in both their work and home life. Knowing that there is an exam or assignment coming up, they are more likely to set aside the time to work on it and therefore do well.
Many young people only have a vague idea of what they want to do with their lives. Often, they go to college with the aim of getting a qualification so that they can get a good job, but they may well struggle to see exactly how the course they have chosen applies to the real world. Mature students, on the other hand, are taking the course because they want to and because they see its application to their careers in the long-term – something that only comes with life experience. They are therefore much more likely to have the determination to see the course through and to complete it to the very best of their abilities.
*Ability to see the bigger picture
It is often not enough to read a lot of books and attend lectures in order to see the whole picture. Most courses have a wide number of applications to the real world, but younger people, with less knowledge of the machinations of the world and how it works, are far less likely to be able to see how everything fits together. Sometimes, just basic things like a lack of general knowledge can hold a young student back from their full potential. Older students, however, have the advantage of both book-learned knowledge and general knowledge, which they can then apply to their studies.
*Ability to work independently
Many younger students are used to being spoon-fed information. They go to college expecting to be told what books to read, often down to individual chapters, rather than having to go off on their own and research the information that they need to write an essay. Older students will be much more able to work independently without having anyone standing over them, because they will have had to do that in their work and home lives. Once they have settled into their new routines, they could well be much more secure about their studies than younger students.
*Confidence in dealing with people
It can initially seem that younger students are full of confidence and are quite happy to speak out in class. However, they often have difficulty in asking questions, because they don’t want to seem stupid or incompetent. They may also be less astute at dealing with people, because of tactlessness or thoughtlessness. On the other hand, mature students will have had to deal with a great deal of people over the course of their lifetimes, and will probably have come up against a number of difficult situations. They will therefore be much more confident in their dealings with people, from college staff and classmates through to people they contact for help with their research.
*Better presentation skills
Presentations often play a necessary part of college courses these days. Younger students often struggle with this, because they are not used to having to present their thoughts and findings in such a formal way. They may struggle to present the information in a way that is easily understandable for the audience. For mature students, along with higher levels of confidence come better presentation skills, because they have probably had experience of presenting in their previous jobs. They probably know exactly how to hold an audience’s attention and how to put together visual aids that are easy to follow. This can be hugely beneficial to a mature student’s results.
Anyone considering going back to school after a period out of education should appreciate that, although they may no longer be young and quick thinking, they probably have an awful lot of skills that will be useful to them in their studies. They will probably even find that they pass the course with flying colours.