For four years, I worked full time. I had a rota, I had annual leave, and more to the point, I had a lot more money. Being what is classed as a ‘mature’ student (mature being a fine choice of word) definitely has its own unique perspective compared to when I was an A-level student 6 years ago.
I’m three weeks in, and think that more or less, I’m getting used to it. I think that, first and foremost, whilst it is made clear that the course I’m doing is intense (Access to HE, essentially two years of A-level in one) and that was straight up going in, so there shouldn’t technically be any surprises. My course is three days a week, with large gaps between lectures, and therefore plenty of time to upkeep a part time job, catch up on assignments, and generally having a social life.
I was wrong.
The common denomination of my class of mature students came from a full time working background and have had to half their wages in order to fit working life around college. Of course, we are fortunate to have this opportunity, and are eligible for an Advanced Learner Loan to go directly towards the college. Without this, I don’t believe our class would be as full as it is.
But as for maintenance, money is hard, and that’s a fact. To be an adult with bills and financial obligations, to half their salary with not much means of support, is a struggle. You see, they do offer financial support to all students. However there is no difference between sixteen year olds freshly entering and mature students, some of whom have their own kids. Household income is looked at, but as a mature student, what difference does that make? Once you’re a mature student, your own finances are your own, you can’t rely on the household to help fund you. It’s nobody’s responsibility, but the majority of mature students leave full time earnings and. therefore the decline is noticeable.
This isn’t a rant about money, by the way. Not in the slightest. But I think that as mature students, our outside life definitely needs to be looked at a bit differently, and maybe our personal income over household income. I think that would definitely take some pressure out of whats already an extremely stressful year.
I went into college feeling extremely optimistic about the time I have. Three days of college a week and a part time job that I mainly do in the evenings. I honestly thought that it would feel as though I would have more free time. And technically, I should! Averaging 18 hours a week at work and 6 lessons a week. Why the hell am I more busy than when I worked full time? Of course, the work that goes alongside it eats away too, and tying into finance, having to work what I can when I can, meaning my days off from college are no longer days off from college. It’s exhausting.
One thing I will say as a huge positive to being a mature student is that there is far more motivation and focus within my class. We are in the same class for each lesson, and because we have all taken out a loan with a clearer focus of the goal that is hoping to be achieved. College back in my teenage years for me was definitely far more motivated by seeing my friends and the socials. Don’t get me wrong, we all still get along and have a laugh, it’s not like being a mature student has morphed us into serious, humourless robots, with an inability to socialise, however one thing we all have in common is a clear goal of what we want to achieve and a drive to get there, which definitely lacked for me personally at sixteen, where I went to college to spend my free periods going for food with friends, with no idea what I wanted to do. Now I want a creative writing and literature degree, and have never been more sure.
Overall, college is great, and is one of the best decisions I could have made and the process is extremely exciting. However, I don’t feel I was fully prepared for some of the pressures that came with it. I was expecting academic and deadline pressure, yet that hasn’t been an issue for me personally yet. It’s more the adapting to a new way of life, in all honesty, to have less financial security and far more energy. Suppose I’m just going to have to get used to not having a disposable income, which will be fine, as I apparently don’t have the time to spend it anyway.
By Molly Hallett