17 Jul Going back to University Over Forty
What is it like to return to University Midlife?
Have you ever played the game where you imagine that you had lived a completely different life and were doing something drastically different to what you are, right now? Whenever I play this game I start off by studying psychology at University.
I have to admit to always having a feeling of regret about not doing so well at University first time around. I went to the University of Kent to study English Literature and obtained a 2.2 in the end. I know why I didn’t achieve the results that I had hoped for: to be honest I was too busy being sociable. I was the editor of the a University magazine called Phoenix and the office manager for the student counselling service, Niteline. I also held down various student jobs including working in a bookshop, delivering leaflets, double glazing telesales and serving behind the bar at a number of pubs, at various times. I certainly didn’t waste my time at Kent but I’ve always had a nagging feeling that I could have done better.
I had vaguely considered going back to Uni at some point to do an MA, sometimes in creative writing and sometimes in English again, but an odd conversation I had with someone changed my life. I had expressed my feeling of regret about not doing so well first time around, and not choosing psychology, and they challenged me to do it again, this time with psychology. They batted away my protestations that I wouldn’t be accepted, countering them with the words “Conversion course”. Looking into this, I found that I could do a one year course to convert my English Degree into a Psychology degree. That sounds interesting and possible, I thought. But then I came across Business Psychology and knew that this was the one for me, and, with my business experience, they would accept me at MSc level.
So, what have I learned about going back to University midlife? Here are 7 things that may just convince you to go back to school
- It’s financially scary. There is no doubt about that and there are many times that I almost didn’t go ahead. It’s so easy to think that the money could be spent on a holiday/clothes/the house/my pension, but in reality the experience that I have gained, even though I am only a quarter through, is well worth the financial cost
- Even if if you can’t see how you will use it in your career, it may still help in ways you cannot imagine. My self confidence has grown along with my focus and time management, all of which have had a positive impact on my work
- You will meet loads of new and interesting people. I love meeting people but in my business world was coming across the same people again and again. By doing my MSc I have met people from all different walks of life and all different ages
- There is often financial help offered. I received 50% funding from the EU after applying for a scholarship. Many institutions have grants on offer and it may be worth phoning admissions to find out what’s on the table. Other students I know have got reductions for loyalty (i.e. going back to their previous University) or by paying the whole amount upfront. If you are a woman Studying a STEM subject, there may be additional funding available
- Learning is enjoyable. I have always loved learning and even now try to get along to a few workshops or courses each year. At Uni though you are not just polishing skills, you are learning something entirely new. I spent the last few years with my head feeling woolly. I even started doing those brain training exercises to try and keep sharp, but all that is gone now. The intellectual stimulation I am getting is keeping me sharp and there is a pure enjoyment that can be found in learning that I had completely forgotten
- I get a kick out of spending time in the library. Call me a nerd if you like, but it’s thrilling to realise how much learning (and not just your own subject) you have access to
- You can get a discount with your student and rail cards. A small point but it goes a long way.
I had worried about being the oldest in the room, but I haven’t been, by a long way, and my experience in the business world has really helped when it comes to presentations and speaking up in class. I find I can also find it easy to think about practical applications for many of the things we are learning.
Time management can be difficult at times, especially if you are involved in group work, which our course has a lot of, but if you love your subject, or have a strong end goal, you can do it. I devote one day a week to my college work and so far this has carried me through.
If you’ve been thinking about returning to university, or even going for the first time, I can promise that it will change your life in ways you couldn’t imagine.