Debbie Andrews is a mature Business, Economics and Finance student. In this blog she talks about her concerns about retraining, her new found skills and her experiences at the Uni:
UCAS define a mature student as any over the age of 21 when they start their degree course. By my reckoning that makes me a very mature student!
The idea of attending University at 18 years of age was not something I even considered let alone discussed with college tutors, careers advisors (was this even available back then?) or my parents. Therefore, I left college and started full time office-based work. However, when my eldest child started primary school, I looked around for an occupation that allowed me to spend the school holidays at home. I became a Teaching Assistant. After 8 years, I felt able to return to office work, but I found that my new teaching skills were not needed in offices and the relevant skills, I had learnt previously, were now outdated. I needed to update and felt the best option was a degree.
In taking the decision to start a full-time University course I had many concerns which, among other things, were my ability, money and friendships. Would I be capable of working at a high enough level to succeed on a degree course? What was this thing called referencing and how do you write an essay anyway? What financial support could I have and how much paid work would I be able to fit in? Would I make any friends or spend my days studying alone?
I found the answers to many of my questions about finances by attending a University of Worcester Open Day. I discovered that I not only would I be entitled to a student loan, but also, that the University employs students in a range of paid roles across campus. I had always worked and wanted to find a way to juggle part time work and studying. I also discussed my plans with my current manager and they offered me a zero hours contract to cover staff absenteeism. Therefore, when I started University I had my student loan, continued working one day a week at my existing job and applied for a Student Ambassador job on campus. I had changed from working full time, to being a student with two part time jobs.
My course induction gave me an insight to some of what I needed to succeed on a degree course. This included referencing, accessing the library, using the IT facilities and how to research for good academic sources. During the first year I accessed further free support from the University, in the form of private sessions with the Academic Librarians, the writers in residence and my tutors. The Writers in Residence service was excellent in helping, me with writing techniques such as, language use, structuring a paragraph and answering questions using a PEA structure (point, evidence, analysis). Skills my children tell me they started developing in key stage 2!
Finally, friendships. These started in my first week but have increased in number during the two years so far. Although I was older than most people and not going out clubbing every week, age has not been a problem in forming social groups. Occasionally, much to the amusement of the lecturers, whose class may be delayed, I am looked upon as a substitute mum to advise on, cures for ailments or minor sports scrapes. But it is all in good humour, and yes I have been out clubbing (once or twice).
Two years on, I am about to enter my third and final year at University. The time has passed so fast. After the first year I ended my zero-hour contract with my old employer and stopped being a teaching assistant. At the same time, I extended the paid work I do at the University and took on 2 new volunteering roles, one at the University. All to give me additional skills and experiences to enhance my curriculum vitae. I am constantly juggling my commitments to family life, volunteering, work, and my degree. Life is very busy, but as long as I make time to chill out and relax, I thrive on it. I am looking forward to my last year at University and life beyond, with a bunch of new skills, experiences and friends.
Debbie 🙂 xx