Are you a Mature Student and thinking about going back to College? –Some Points to Consider.
This is the time of year that many adults are also thinking about re skilling, revisiting Higher Education or going to Higher Education for the first time.
Those adults who are aged, new horizons 23 by the first of February are considered as Mature Students for the purpose of CAO applications. These days it is very common for people to consider going to College or University later in life. Redundancies, disability, dissatisfaction in careers, a change of life circumstances or unfulfilled dreams may prompt people to think about going back to education.
Many adults I meet are concerned about their age and the age profile of those at College. However, they are reassured to hear that currently, 11% of University Students are mature, whilst 20% of those in Institutes of Technology are mature. Many go on to college, and form great friendships and networks among peers, and are inspired by students in their 40s, 50s and 60s as education is life long.
The second thing that concerns adults considering Higher Education, are the costs of education. The Back to Education Allowance is given to Mature Students who have been on welfare for 9 months or more. There are also supports given under the Student Universal Support Ireland grant ( SUSI) for those who meet the eligibility criteria. Higher Institutions often have Hardship Funds to assist students and this is often overseen by the Mature Students Officer or Access Office. Registration fees can also be paid by SUSI or the Government where the applicant meets the criteria. See www.studentfinance.ie for further info or www.susi.ie
The third concern that faces many adults considering education is the length of time that has lapsed since they were at school. They may worry about their ability to apply themselves to their studies. It is worth noting that many Universities and Institutes of Technology run Access Courses or Foundation Courses which act as a bridge back to Learning. These courses are tailored to Mature Learners and allow the learner the chance to get used to the learning environment, gain study and research techniques, to brush up on key skills and to gain an insight into preferred study options. These courses can really enthuse the learner, and build their confidence as well as ease their transition back to learning.
The fourth concern facing mature students is the time it might take to study. Some Mature Students have financial obligations to a mortgage or family commitments, and it may not suit them to be out of the workforce for years. In this scenario, it might be a good idea to think about part time education. Some of the Higher Institutions offer part time study options with fees attached. These part time routes may take longer, however, sometimes the workplace may offer to cover some of the costs, and revenue offer tax relief on recognised courses.
Finally, last but not least, those considering returning to Higher Education may wonder about what path to choose or what courses to put down on the CAO form. See www.cao.ie The deadline is 1st of February at a cost of 40 euros and 20th of January at a reduced rate of 20 euros.
In order to help clarify choices, it is useful to seek advice and further information on options. The Education and Training Boards ETBs around the country all have Adult Educational Guidance Initiatives, who offer impartial, confidential and professional advice, which can help clarify career direction and choices. Universities and ITs often host Mature Information Evenings, which can help address concerns and clarify procedures for mature students. Check with the college websites for further information or consult the Mature Section of the websites. The Mature Section offers lots of useful information. While Mature Students are not assessed on Leaving Cert points, it is important to check if you meet the entry criteria requirements. Note also, that some courses are competitive and may require further assessments or interviews.
It is also beneficial to approach Mature Student Officers, Heads of Departments of your preferred study area and Admissions for further information. They are more than willing to answer questions, offer more information on the courses, and to discuss progression opportunities or previous graduate destinations. Of course, you may also know someone who is working in the field that you are interested in or they are in their third or final year of the course that appeals to you. Speaking with them may offer you reassurance and may confirm your desire to follow that path.
Investing time into your career planning and investigation pays off in the long run as it can lead to well considered, suitable and satisfying career choices!