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Friday, 24 February 2012

Five tips from the trenches for mature age students

-By Jayne G

Negotiating university life as a new student is always an exciting experience. For many of us it can also be one fraught with difficulty. Trying to find your way around campus, working out the expectations of lecturers and tutors - and most importantly, finding out which cafe makes the best coffee for those long study sessions (priorities right?) – is something that we all encounter. Being a mature age student adds a whole new dimension to the experience. It can be daunting to discover that you’re the only person in your tutorial group who has had to renew your driving license! To negotiate the balance between work, family and study. Or that any tutorial discussion about family focuses less on your parents, but rather your own kids. It can be easy to feel like the proverbial fish out of water, and wonder why on earth you were thinking of coming to uni. I know I felt this way...even though in all other respects I utterly loved my course and all my subjects from the very first day.

So with this in mind, I have devised a list of 5 tips 'from the trenches-so to speak, for beginning mature age students. Have fun and good luck!

  1. The Deakin website has a wonderful resource page 'Information for Mature Age Students'. This is essential reading and a great first port of call. Find out about study support, financial assistance, childcare, student support services and a myriad of other useful information. 
  2. On campus students-if you can, it’s a really good idea to attend O week. I admit I was a tad sceptical when I started last year, believing O week to be all about partying and social events for ‘the younguns’ (imagine that said in Grandpa Simpson’s voice). However there are campus tours, library tours and social events run by DUSA ( Deakin University Student Association) which are great ways to meet new people, find your way around  and find the best coffee. On that note, Caffeine (as the name suggests) at Burwood does a great coffee, though it can be kinda hectic and crowded. I prefer the LearningSpace cafe, located in Building H, level 1 (below Einstein’s), for a quieter more relaxed vibe. As an added benefit this has become a bit of a hangout/study space for many mature age students :) 
  3. Attend a study skills workshop If it’s been a few years since you studied, you may need a refresher on how to best organise your study time, or the ins and outs of writing an academic essay. Many students I have spoken to have found doing one of the introductory subjects such as Introduction to University Study extremely helpful. From personal experience, I wish I had studied the aforementioned subject before attempting any others, as it really deals with the basics of writing and researching an academic essay-an essential skill whatever course you are taking. Consultations with Language and Learning advisors have also proved beneficial to many students I have spoken to.
  4. Ask questions! Get to know your Unit Chair, lecturers and tutors – introduce yourself and create a dialogue with them so you can discuss your assignments, ask about exams and ask for extensions or assistance when/if needed.
  5. Consider joining Deakin Mature Age Students’ Club at Burwood or The 21+ Club at Geelong. These clubs provide support and study assistance for mature age students. Social events are held on a regular basis to encourage interaction and peer support among mature age students. Speaking from personal experience-being part of the MASC has made my university experience so much more enjoyable and rewarding! Find out more about Deakin MASC (based at Burwood) here or via the Facebook page here. More information about the 21+ club at Geelong can be found on the DUSA Geelong page.


  1. I'm so glad you posted this. Even though I'm off-campus I rang and attended the study skills workshop & library session during O week & it was the best move. I was very nervous of the perception of mature age students after my daughter's friend 'liked' a page on Facebook mocking them. But I too have loved it since day one, although still juggling that family/study balance...

  2. Thanks so much Jo! :) It's great to hear you found the study skills workshops useful. I didn't personally manage to get there, but I have heard very positive feedback from those who have. As mentioned in the post, I found the Intro to Uni Learning unit very helpful, and it probably covered a lot that is in the workshops anyway.

    It's sad that those Facebook pages exist. I have heard about them as well. Really, university should be a place of diversity, welcome to people from all walks of life. The younger students who post on pages like this should realise that they are going to have to get used to working alongside people of all ages once they are in the workforce. I think high school can be a bit of a bubble for some of them, so they get a shock when they encounter the diversity of ages represented on campus.

  3. Thanks, Jayne! Being 30 and starting Uni for the first time can be pretty daunting. I completely forgot to sign up for the O-Week StudyStart Workshop but I'll be sure to check out others as T1 begins. LearningSpace looks good!

  4. Hi Jayne agree with you, at first i am also being quite sceptical with the importance of O'week;). I thought it must be all about fun for the younguns. The informations you provided for us really2 helpful to mature age students ;). Thx

  5. Great info...I think I'll look into the bit about writing academic essays - every bit helps :-)