There are many ways of supporting older and more mature college and university students through, what can be the most exciting, dramatic and completely life-changing, but also enriching, experience for people of mature years. Maintaining motivation and momentum are often the most difficult issues for the older student, as a fragile ego is often knocked by the supremely confident, highly achieving uber young.
Certainly, full-time mature students have a significant awareness that they are a minority on campus and lectures or seminars can prove particularly daunting for this reason. Colleges and universities that offer mature student groups often provide the key to success, peer contact and motivation that is required to overcome this hurdle.
Some indications of the type of support older students will need in the home and the college environment follow.
Support for Older Students in the Home Environment
Older students need to gain the understanding and support of family and friends in order to maintain commitment to their course of study. Children, in particular, can be very dismissive of attempts by older members of the family to return to education, which can prove hurtful.
Dependent upon the circumstances of the mature student, it is wise to gather as much of a support network as possible to cover emergency situations that may arise in the home.
A network of friends prepared to deal with urgent baby sitting or childsitting necessities is essential for the student mother, also to help with emergencies that may arise at home. Understanding employers who realise the pressures of academic work can also help out tremendously. Finally help with study skills and maintaining a peaceful environment is welcomed from understanding partners.
Ultimately, however, the older student has to come to the realisation that returning to education is a matter of personal choice and they will need to be self-reliant, focused and disciplined to succeed.
Support From University or College to Older Students in Full Time Education
One essential means of supporting older students in their studies is to hold regular meetings for the mature students on campus which will enable them to get to know each other and establish support networks. This helps them to maintain regular contact with the educational establishment and gain realisation that they are not alone in returning to ‘schooling’.
For the lecturer, to pair the older student with a younger student in seminars may also help establish links between the generations and also the setting of arbitrary groups for team work and presentations encourages integration of the older student into the wider student community.
Younger students do not take too long to realise the benefits a mature viewpoint can bring to aspects of learning. Also some of the fears and anxieties that may affect the younger students do not tend to cause such problems to older students who have already established a position in life and hold varied viewpoints gained from experience and wisdom.
One of the most important methods of support that can be offered by a University or College to the older student is in the acquisition of keyboarding and computer skills and time management, research and essay writing and exam techniques.
With a much wider variety of courses offered by distance learning, the opportunity for older students to return to education has never been greater. Distance learning offers the flexibility to work at times that suit the student, and is therefore much easier for mature students with home, family and work commitments to organize.
It is, however, important that regular contact with the school of learning is maintained either by on-line or phone tutorials or residentials which help to ensure continued commitment to the course and also encourage some degree of student networking.
In conclusion, it is obvious that mature students may require a substantial amount of assistance and understanding throughout their college or university education, however the benefits acquired by this late return to learning will be immense and obvious to family and friends.