Studying for a Degree in Older Age: How to Plan and Prepare In 4 Steps

The older you get, the more experience you have of the world and the better you know yourself and what you want from life. That’s one of the reasons so many people decide to switch careers or return to studying later in life. According to the Learning & Work Institute, 1 in 3 adults in the UK would like to change their job or career in the next two years. However, many people worry they don’t have the skills or qualifications needed.

Studying at the university level for a diploma or degree can seem daunting for a mature student but there are plenty of good reasons to. In this article, we’ll look at why you might want to return to study and how to effectively plan and prepare for your studies as a mature student.

Reasons to Return to Study Later in Life

We all have personal goals and ambitions, no matter who we are or our age. Many of us put off things we’d like to do, waiting for ‘the time to be right but the truth is, if there’s something we want out of life, the best time to go for it, is always now!

If you find yourself dissatisfied with your current job or career and are looking to switch or had the chance to study at university when you were younger but have always wanted to, then you shouldn’t let your age or circumstances hold you back.

The number of mature students starting full-time undergraduate courses in the UK has reached record levels in recent years, with applications for 2021 entry up by 24%, showing that increasing numbers of people are realising that when it comes to studying for a degree, age isn’t – and shouldn’t – be a factor.

4 Steps to Successfully Study for a Diploma or Degree

If you’re thinking of going to university later in life, here are 4 steps you’ll need to take as a mature student returning to study.

Check entry requirements

Entry requirements vary from course to course. Once you know what you plan to study, you should find out the minimum requirements. If you don’t have these, you may need to undertake an access course or gain additional qualifications before being accepted onto the course of your choice. However, many universities will accept alternative qualifications from mature students and may even take into account relevant work and life experience too, so it’s worth checking.

Decide on full-time or part-time study

It’s often possible to study for a degree or diploma either full-time or part-time. Think about your circumstances and how much time you can feasibly dedicate to your studies alongside any other commitments.

The exact hours will vary depending on the nature of your course. Some vocational courses, for example, those in healthcare, will have lots of teaching time alongside practical placements to prepare you for the workplace. Creative courses, on the other hand, may have fewer lectures and more independent study time.

Compare courses and providers

Once you’ve decided what you want to study, you should compare the different course options available and compare the providers of the courses you’re interested in.

Think about:

  • How is the course taught?
  • How is the course assessed?
  • What are the course fees?
  • Will there be any other costs, such as textbooks or trips etc?
  • What do current or past students think of the course? Would they recommend it?
  • How would you travel to the university? Or if you’d need accommodation, what is that like and how much it would cost?
  • What will your employment and salary options look like after you finish the course?

Apply for finance

Finally, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to finance your studies. You may be eligible for student finance. If not, you might want to privately fund your studies by continuing to work around your course, either by switching to a flexible working pattern in an existing job, going freelance or taking a part-time job. It’s also possible to apply for a personal loan, even if you have a poor credit rating. Or if you have savings or financial support from a partner, this might help you to finance your studies without taking on additional commitments.