Getting a degree as a mature student and full time working parent has been a challenge, but has it been worth it? Adam first returned to University back in 2017 where he studied an Access course at our local college. The course was one years intensive study where he was in lessons around four days a week. He had to do an independent personal project and learn new skills that he hadn’t done before including referencing, research and data collection. It was a completely new experience for him after over ten years outside of education. I think there were many moments of hardship and stress where Adam asked himself is getting a degree worth it?
The Cost of Getting A Degree
It’s expensive. There’s no way around it. Getting a university education is not cheap. However, student finance is an option and I believe you get four full time years student finance available to you. This can be used with a traditional university, a college offering foundation degrees and other institutes of Higher Education such as The Open University. In the UK the first place to apply is through the student finance website and repayment of student loans happens once you’ve finished your degree and are in paid work above a certain threshold. In other countries this works differently and some people choose to refinance their student loans. If this is applicable to you, you can discover more here.
Why Do Mature Students Return to Education
I think there are many reasons why people return to education. For Adam, he had been working in his job for a good few years and was just going nowhere. There was no room for progression and he was so desperately unhappy and feeling unfufilled. He felt he wasn’t living up to his own potential and wanted a career for himself. We wanted to expand our family and move home eventually and it just was feeling like it was impossible. I feel like I’m finally doing something I love being able to work from home and write for a living and Adam wanted something for himself. I remember our conversation about studying and we got an Open University prospectus as Adam knew he would have to continue working through any form of study.
However, after seeing a friend finish an access course and get a place at University, we talked about him actually going to a place of study. It all happened pretty quickly after that as he applied in the July and was accepted to start in September. His chosen study path was Social Sciences and he had to redo his Maths GCSE alongside college. He applied for the course fee through student finance and reduced his hours at work slightly so they wouldn’t interfere with college. It was a pretty hard year financially as during college we didn’t get any financial help, aside from the fees paid, and he had a paycut from work.
I think wanting to change career paths or enable some form of career progression is probably one of the main driving forces when deciding to return to education but sometimes it can just be something to do, having a passion for a subject and wanting to learn more or potentially something for the CV after a career break, or starting a family. For Adam, it was very much about having the qualifications to build a successful, interesting and exciting career, although he didn’t know what he wanted to do, or even full study at University.
Doing an Access to HE course is an excellent pathway for Students that enjoy Classroom Based Learning
Adam felt going into a classroom would be much easier for him rather than completely independent study as it offered some routine and structure. He had a really successful and enjoyable year on his Access to HE course in Social Sciences anr originally applied for a degree in Criminology to five Universities. A couple were local and some were a little further affield. He got conditional offers from each University and eventually decided to study at Winchester as it was the shortest, and easiest, commute via public transport.
Being a Mature Student Might not be the ‘Typical’ University Experience
Adam isn’t a big drinker, partygoer and is pretty introverted as a person so he wasn’t really interested in the social experience University can offer younger students flying the nest and striking out on their own for, probably, the first time. Adam was in his mid-twenties, worked full time, was learning to drive and became a dad during his first semester of University. His plan was to study, come home, sleep when he could and do it all again. The extra financial help really helped us top up his wages but Adam felt a lot of stress and a lot of pressure. Finally passing his driving test in his first year really made a difference for the rest of his University experience, as did when our Son slept through the night in his bed eventually. Despite all of this Adam had a positive experience whilst studying his undergraduate degree. He doesn’t feel like he missed out on anything living off campus and away from busy student social occassions. However, he wouldnt particularly recommend starting a family, starting University and changing jobs all in one month to be the way forward as it was a lot.
Has Getting a Degree Been Worth It?
Personally, I think yes. Adam achieved second class honours: upper division (a 2:1 BA degree) despite a lot of obstacles including studying through homeschooling and a global pandemic. It has not been easy but despite everything he did really, really well. Right now, it’s hard to say in terms of a career because he has decided to stay on at his current place of work whilst finishing his Masters post graduate degree. His degree in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics has built an excellent foundation for his chosen Masters programme in Reconcilliation and Peacebuilding. His hope is that this will allow for an exciting graduate career, a chance to relocate as a family and just build something to be proud of; giving us the opportunity to have a happy and fufilling family life. I know that realistically we are looking at a good few years of him building a career, working long hours but hopefully, the time we can spend together as a family, holidays we can have will make it all worth it. I think, as well, having a personal sense of achievement, especially after not doing so well at school, really helps make it all feel worth it in the long run.