In September 2012 I enrolled as a part-time mature student on the MA Library and Information Management programme at Manchester Metropolitan University. Last week I finished the taught part of the course, so I’ve no more lectures to attend and just a dissertation to write. Since then I’ve been thinking about the last couple of years: life as a mature student has been an incredibly challenging but hugely rewarding journey. To follow are some of my thoughts on surviving the experience, but I’d love to hear ideas from any other past or present mature students : )
Often us mature students have to balance our studies with holding down a job, doing school-runs, making dinner, playing hide-and-seek, putting children to bed, having some sort of relationship with our partner beyond discussing which bins are to go out and so on. Arranging childcare for my two small children was one of the biggest hurdles for me in being able to do the course. Unfortunately universities are notoriously late when it comes to finalising timetables; MMU only confirmed the class timetable at the end of August with classes starting at the end of September! Anyone with children in a private nursery knows this sort of notice can be much too short to guarantee a place for your child on the days you need. This has always been a bit of a stress for me but by Year Two I got to know the timetabling department by name and they were prepared to email me an early copy of a draft timetable, which was some help in planning.
Going easy on myself
It can be very overwhelming starting academic life again after a long break – I had completely forgotten how to write an essay! There is so much to learn about the way university works: how to use the library, the printers, the chocolate vending machine; not to mention actual course content. As I had finished my undergraduate course in 1998 I was completely unprepared for using a VLE and was initially shocked by people bringing electronic devices into class! But after a nice chat with the department’s student experiences tutor, I calmed down (a bit). I made use of the study skills support tutor and attended a workshop in essay writing. I took baby steps and discovered that learning happens over time. Essays got easier to write and technology became familiar. And by the second year I even started bringing my own iPhone to class : )
Trying not to compare myself
I had been a stay at home mother for a period before starting back at uni and one of the most exciting things for me was being in contact with adult humans on a regular basis. I’ve met such an interesting group of people on the course, some of whom will be friends for life. That said, I have found it difficult not to compare myself professionally with my younger colleagues, particularly when it seems that their IT skills are so much better than mine. But I’m trying very hard not to. I’m hopeful that my own attributes, not to mention my maturity and life experiences will serve me well when I start applying for jobs. In addition I’ve taken whatever CV enhancing opportunities my childcare arrangements would allow me, in the form of voluntary work experience, extra training and so on.
Above all enjoying it
Easy to say but not so easy to do – spending evenings and weekends working on assignments can be a bit miserable. It was really hard to motivate myself when I was studying over the Christmas holidays and could hear the laughter of my kids playing downstairs. But I already miss lectures and they only finished last week. I’m still studying at night working on my last few deadlines at the moment but I’m certain I’ll miss everything about being a mature library student, even those last assignments, when it’s all over.