Mature Or Just Old

So in my 43rd year of life on this planet, most of it spent avoiding academia, it is somewhat ironic that I am now in my 3rd of Psychology a degree at the University of Liverpool. Am I a mature student or am I just old?

A few months back I was crying outside the School of Psychology Experience Office, and in between the sobs and explanations for my outburst came the words expressing the thoughts I’d been carrying around for 2 years “I’m too old for this“.  Then the lovely lady in the SEO simply stated “no you’re not“. The truth is that what I said that day reflected more about what I felt personally as apposed to the way I’d actually been treated during my degree.

When I applied to Liverpool University in 2014, I applied for the Psychology BSc 2+2, which is the Psychology degree with a foundation year element.  Like everybody else, you apply through UCAS, however, the focus of the application process appears to be more about your personal experiences and extra -curricular activities (LIFE), than purely focusing on your academic grades (although, I am aware that I study with straight A students on the same degree). It was because of this that I naturally assumed that my course (which for the first 2 years is mainly delivered at Wirral Metropolitan College) would be full of people of a similar age, but I was very mistaken. The first year of my degree (known as Year 0) was split into two groups, and in my group I was the eldest by at least 10 years.

At first if, I’m being honest, I found the age gap daunting and somewhat worrying, but after a couple of days I have to admit, I completely forgot about the age difference (sometimes I acted younger than my fellow students) and got into the swing of being a typical student. I was invited out all the time to social events by my group, who clearly weren’t bothered by the age gap, and was always invited to study and revision groups. In fact, I was invited to everything my group organised together and I never felt or was made to feel too old.

The only time I’ve felt judged on the basis of my age was by an employee on a recruitment stand at a careers fair. I left the stand feeling like I was on the scrap heap and vowed I’d never attend a careers event again.

The truth is though, that’s one person out of the hundreds of people I encounter the University, and if I’d been a bit more savvy on the day I could have pointed out that by the time I graduate I still have 20 years of working life left, so not claiming state pension just yet!

Fast forward to Year 3, along with my friends from the 2+2, I’m now full time at UoL and feeling a massive change, from a classroom of 20 students to a lecture hall of approximately 500 is a big eye opener. I was convinced that I would just be another number amongst the hundreds in my year, and again I was pleasantly surprised. Walking into my first lecture of semester 1, I saw a sea of young students and felt, well, very old! I’m even older than a lot of the lecturers!

But does it bother me? Truthfully sometimes yes, but that’s not the students, lecturers or University’s fault, it’s down to myself.  Doing a bit of personal psychoanalysis, maybe I feel that I should have achieved more in my life by my age? Maybe I’m angry that I didn’t do a degree when I was younger? Or maybe I’m having a mid-life crisis?

Being a mature student is hard, we have to perform a balancing act with: responsibilities as a partner, caring for grown up step children, managing bills, commitments prior to my degrees (I have a role within a national youth organisation). Sometimes this balancing act can take it’s toll and serious time management skills are required.

However, the positives of doing a degree at my age are that I have more patience and a better understanding of the “bigger picture” as I can relate to the subject through my many, diverse life experiences.

The truth of the matter is, I know I couldn’t have managed a degree when I was in my late teens/early twenties, so actually being a mature student is the best thing for me and I love my University lifestyle!

Contribution by Geri Burns-McCombe, Psychology Student at the University of Liverpool.

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