Returning to education can be daunting, as you wonder whether you’ll be able to juggle your time and finances, and whether you’ll be able to fit in or keep up with a bunch of teenagers and twentysomethings on your course.
The good news is that educational experts and mature students who’ve been down this road before you believe that older learners have got some major advantages. Here’s a breakdown of some of the benefits of returning to college later in life.
Your maturity is an asset
You’ve already started a career, maybe you have a mortgage – chances are you’re not likely to be found staggering home from the pub with a traffic cone on your head any more. Making a positive decision to go back into learning means you value it more, and that means you get more out of it.
“As an older student you definitely appreciate the education more. Young people often feel pressured to go to university by their teachers or parents – as a mature student, you’re there because you want to be,” Ella McManus told the Guardian, after returning to university aged 36 with two kids.
Life experience counts
All the time management skills, organisational abilities and resilience you’ve been putting to work in your career will be a huge asset in your studies. Study skills expert Chloe Burroughs says working or raising a family means adults can prioritise, collaborate and motivate themselves in ways that younger students are still learning.
She adds: “Work or volunteering experience can help you understand university material and apply it to real life. A mature student is often able to bring their life experience into the classroom to put academic material into a broader context.”
You know what you want
Taking time away from education and getting some career experience can also give you a much better picture of where you want to go with your life. That can translate into a wiser choice of course and better outcomes.
“With a clearer vision of where they want their career to take them, mature students are often likelier to select qualifications and training which provides a decisive career path,” says Hadyn Luke, director of CMS Vocational Training.
Learning is good for mental health
But it isn’t just about a career and making money. There’s good evidence that continuing to learn and to develop your education is great for your health and wellbeing.
Research by University College London found that taking further education courses boosted the wellbeing of people with moderate to severe mental health difficulties. Other studies have found adult education helps reduce depression, anxiety and loneliness.
And it may help to keep you young
Spending time learning new ideas with younger people can feel like a revitalising experience. Research suggests it may have real benefits for keeping your brain healthy throughout your life.
A systematic review of studies into adult education and cognitive decline found that people who continued learning throughout their lives were less likely to develop dementia and had better mental performance. So heading back to college could be the foundation for staying mentally sharp in every stage of life.