At age 21 I started university, three years later than ‘normal.’ I quote those words because those are the frequent statements I was told which made me feel as if I was the odd one out, or as if I was ‘behind’ everyone else in a race to get a job.

So, if you’re in the same position, I want you to wipe all those words away with a cloth. On my first induction day my class had eight mature students and a mature student society where there were as many! So if you feel like the odd one out, know it is far more common than society acknowledges.

Additionally, I have learnt that mature students bring an entirely different wealth of skills to class. For my part, having lived in Paris and Beijing before coming to university, I had a cultural awareness and international perspective on class debates and discussion as well as practical examples which I could apply to essays. Many students gain these at university or afterwards, but your present loft of experiences is equally valuable should you already have it.

But there is no doubt that being a mature student has other challenges. Here are four of my top tips for mature students, starting their first degree …

Tip One:  I still recommend living on campus first year so that you can take advantage of the accessibility and community atmosphere. However, I would recommend applying to mature student housing which will allow you to meet with more people your age and will maybe help you to avoid the fresher craze.

Tip Two: Take advantage of the university career service/writing skills centre. Many students do not find out about the tutorials until their final year. However, as a mature student it may have been many years since you wrote an academic essay. Give yourself a helping hand and sign up to tutorials and proofreading from the beginning!

Tip Three: Despite the many friends and homes you may have across the world, do not be tempted to make frequent weekend trips away. You have chosen to be here for three years so settle and make it your new home. The more ties you make in terms of societies and friends at university, the quicker you’ll settle in.

Tip Four: Lastly, you will have heard that first year is too busy to have a part-time job or too hard to maintain the reading alongside. Having nannied for three children and coordinated charity teams, my multi-tasking skills are pretty good — and I’m sure yours are too. Don’t take people’s university experience as linear; know yourself, your skills, your capabilities, and make university what you want it to be.

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