Being a mature student is quickly becoming a bit of a norm in this country particularly with the rising popularity of access to higher education courses being offered. My partner Adam completed his social sciences access course in July and has accepted a place studying Criminology at Winchester university. Studying as a mature student is a great way to retrain but it does come with its own set of challenges.
Adam applied for university very close to the UCAS deadline date during his access course in January. He applied for five university placements with two being at Winchester which is our closest university. One required him to pass his GCSE in Maths and one just requires him to pass his access course. Adam didn’t feel confident he would pass maths (although we have since found out that he has passed – but has remained on the course he wanted) so decided to confirm his choice and select criminology as his firm choice. As soon as student finance applications opened he applied and was told his finance allowance for the year.
University Mature Student – Getting Student Loans
As a mature student living away from home I had to fill in my details to support his application. Student finance is calculated on the previous years tax so Adams finance was calculated by our household income for 2016/2017 as he was planning on starting university in September 2018. As a mature student with a household income of less than £16,000 that year he was able to apply for
Tuition Fee loan
Maintenance Loan top up (for lower incomes)
Adult Dependant Grant
He decided to apply for all of these as even though we would both be working when he started university I was three months pregnant and we were expecting our income to take a bit of a fall whilst I recover from birth and adjust to life with a newborn. We were then told what we had been accepted for. I think Adam is also entitled to a low income bursary from the university which isn’t payable in May. Apparently there is no need to apply as it is calculated automatically from Student Finance. As far as we are concerned, as a mature student with an adult dependant and two children any and all financial help is going to make a difference.
After finding out what was to be awarded it was just a case of waiting for his official results to come through so he could inform the university and then have his offer changed from conditional to unconditional. He had a start date for 19th September to enroll with lectures beginning the week after.
Saving Money as a Mature Student
As a mature university student Adam has applied for a three year NUS discount card for £30. This allows lots of discounts on clothes, cinema and meals out. As a mature student he also qualified for a one year 16-25 rail card. To get this rail card there is a form you need to print out which you take to university when you enroll to have stamped. This then allows you to get a rail card reducing travel costs. Whilst Adam is learning to drive he will be getting the train to and from University every day. With the railcard he saves around 1/3 on his travel costs which will be a saving of around £300 each semester.
The biggest challenge now is juggling that work life study and family balance. We will have a newborn in the house in October just after he has started university as well as juggling getting Evie to and from school. Adam will continue to work 29 hours a week from Sunday until Thursday during the evening and will be studying at university for three or four days a week. Time management is key for a mature student at university with a family at home. It does not leave a lot of time for the Social side of university life however as we are a family husband priorities are with studying and working.
Here are some top tips to help you adjust to life as a mature student
1. Don’t feel you will be the oldest one there. It’s very unlikely that you will be as university does not have an age limit. Some people enjoy studying throughout their lives and you are sure to find someone studying to increase their career prospects or because university works around their family.
2. Get yourself a planner and set yourself a schedule so that you can plan your time wisely.
3. Do consider getting a discount card and rail card to help you budget better and save money on essentials.
4. You don’t have to sacrifice time with your family. It is a juggle but you can prepare for things like days out together or date nights when you have your schedule. As a mature student you still need time to put the books away and enjoy a break from time to time.
5. It’s likely your student finance will be a buffer for your wages so budget wisely and consider paying things in advance with each payment you get such as rent. Our plan is to pay £1500 each semester which is around ten weeks rent and then top up with Adams wages.
6. Student finance affects benefits. Universal Credit will take all of the income into consideration but I believe allow a certain amount for travel, books and essentials. Tax Credits do not ask about maintenance loans but will want to know about the total adult dependant grant. When you start university you should make this clear to any benefits that you receive to avoid being sent huge overpayment bills.
Being a mature student has a lot of benefits and if you plan your time wisely it can be a great move for your career.
Coombe Mill (Fiona) (@coombemill)
Good luck to Adam and well done on the GCSE maths and the uni course.