1. Get yourself a dictionary. There is a lot of language that is used in the academic world that we do not generally encounter in our day to day lives. Buying a good dictionary and incorporating the words into your vocabulary is an excellent piece of advice.
2. University is a place where you can challenge assumptions but… professors are people too. Some professors have spent a lot of time in school and not a lot of time “where the rubber hits the road”. For mature students, the reverse is usually the truth – they have more experience where “the rubber hits the road”. It may be the case that you do not agree with the professor and that is okay but there are some that are not receptive to being challenged.
3. Go to the writing resource center immediately. Being out of school for over 25 years did not prepare me for academic paper citation. The writing resource center will give you all the tips and tricks to formulating a cogent argument and referencing your research work. Once you learn the format your life will become easier.
4. Make friends with the library staff – this will prove invaluable. There are so many resources that you can access that will make your papers exceptional. Library staff can be very helpful if you are keen to learn as mature students generally are. Go into the library before your classes start and get an orientation of the premises. Identify yourself as a new student and you will get the service you need.
5. Contact your mature student representative to join other mature students who will have some of the same challenges as you have. If there is no mature student society, form one. Being mature students in class with the youth of today can have positive and negative benefits; peer support is so helpful.
6. Mature students bring wisdom and perspective but be careful to not overpower the younger generation in class. They are there to learn and grow and they need to be given space to do that. Speaking to add value is a good rule of thumb as opposed to speaking to demonstrate what you know. Mature students need to be mindful of others.
7. Check with the financial services department to see what kinds of supports there are for mature students. There are usually bursaries and scholarships in place for mature students and those who support dependents while attending school.
8. Learn to manage time. In all likelihood, you will be juggling work, home and schoolwork which will make it essential that you manage your time well. Set realist goals for when certain pieces of work are due allowing time for review and revision.
9. Get involved with the student body. There are things to experience outside of the classroom that will make your experience more enjoyable and help you bond with classmates. Seek out activities that you are interested in.
10. Get plenty of rest. Your brain will be working hard and will need rest to ensure that you keep coming up with those wonderful ideas. Get away from the habit of cramming to meet deadlines which may cause you to cut into your rest.
Debbie Adams is the owner of Hummingbird Consulting Services, where she is a speaker, trainer and coach in the area of diversity and inclusion. She enjoyed a career in trades but vision loss prevented her from continuing so she returned to study as a mature student. She acquired a BA at the age of 40 and enjoyed her time at university. She feels that preparation is a key to success. [http://www.peoplecan.info]