Insider’s guide to the mature age student experience

“Um hi, sorry to interrupt I know everyone is keen to leave as it is a Wednesday evening and all, student night woohoo you should have seen me party in my prime… although I’m far too old for that now, anyway, but I just wanted to clarify one specific point you made in the lecture three weeks ago about the assignment that’s due in a month from now, because according to my personal experience as both a parent and…”

I know this is exactly what you were all thinking when you saw the title of this article. I can practically feel the eye roll from here. But since you’ve gotten this far, hear me out.

According to a super official survey of uni students that was completed at the start of semester, the average age for students commencing at the University of Newcastle is 26. See numbers (just like hips) don’t lie, which means the majority of students who started their degree this year were, you guessed it, mature age. Not that numbers have anything to do with maturity, I mean just this morning I put sprinkles on my porridge and I’m nearly 30. But what does it really mean to be a mature age student in the 21st century? #letstalk.

Although you might be quick to judge the person who sits up the back of the lecture, engages in every single discussion and may or may not choose to throw in whatever life experience they may or may not have, there is actually more to being a mature age student then these (sometimes delightfully annoying) quirks. The mature age student is usually coming at their degree with an entirely different attitude than their younger counterparts. Instead of having say, the time and space to ‘find themselves’ they may have a family, or a mortgage, or a lot more to gamble than the average punter. Me personally? It’s really just about proving my parents wrong that I actually can finish something I started. This is yet to be decided. Anyway, mature age students are usually all in or all out with their studies. They approach their degree with an unbridled tenacity that can come across as though they are the most annoying people on the planet super focused and not really willing to waver on that fact.

But… think about this scenario. Imagine if, throughout your whole adult life, you’ve felt as though you’re lost, wavering about in the big wide world, working for the man and hating on the system. But you need to do things like eat, and afford a roof over your head etc. so you work until something better comes along. But then one day you wake up, kick your cubicle over and give your boss the finger because you’ve finally found the one thing you really, really want to do. It’s an enlightening, and wonderful feeling to have finally found your passion, so it’s understandable you’re going to dive in head first and never look back.

The typical characteristics of a mature age student, like the ones mentioned above can be seen as one of two things. The first being, a coping mechanism. We all like to fit in, actually it’s pretty much at the core of what it means to be human, the desire to belong can be so strong that it forces us to do ridiculous things sometimes. So whenever we walk into a room full of say, people who are perhaps half our age, we might tend to freak out a little. I’ve definitely been guilty of reenacting the whole “how do you do fellow kids” meme one too many times (I also tried to use ‘lit’ in a sentence yesterday and it made a teeny tiny part of me die inside). So we overcompensate. And instead of trying to fit in, we try to stand out, in the most socially awkward kind of way. The other flip side is, we just don’t care. There’s the hard truth. Mature age students have usually worked ridiculously hard to get to where they are. They are (typically) more likely to study harder and commit to group work a lot easier, which means they can also be your best asset.

So yes, some mature age students can and will most definitely get on your nerves, but so does the 19 year old who started their presentation with “yeah so I’m pretty hungover and I didn’t do any of this group assignment but it’s worth 50% so here’s our slideshow, thingy. #getlit *dab*.

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