Our Welfare Officer and former CLL student, Elaine Moore, gives her advice on what to consider if you’re thinking about returning to education.
Returning to learning as an adult can be pretty scary. You might wonder if it’s right for you, if you have the time, the aptitude or even the desire to commit to a one, two, three or four year course at a university. It might be something you’ve always wanted to do but never thoroughly researched or reflected upon. One thing is certain, no matter what your age, it’s never too late to go back to study and pursue a lifelong desire to find out more, and to be an enquiring adult. You won’t be the only adult in the classroom asking questions– that’s the point of learning!
Some things to think about while you decide if further study is for you…
Dedication and reward
Studying comes with many rewards, new friendships, conversing with like-minded adults, learning new skills, building confidence and acquiring knowledge. It will challenge and change you, it will open up new ways of seeing, and it will expand your avenues of possibilities. Studying also requires commitment from you and your family. It takes time to attend lectures and seminars, for self-directed learning and enquiry, reading, researching, learning and applying new academic skills, writing and reviewing assignments. You’ll need to adjust your weekly routines and refocus your time.
Positivity and passion
Studying will be so much easier if you have a positive mental attitude from the outset. A passion and desire to find out more about your chosen subject of study is imperative in order to keep you motivated and engaged. This positivity will help you to attend lectures and participate in seminar groups, and push you to widen your friendship groups as you share and consolidate the learning. It will ensure you visit the library and deepen your knowledge. It will help you through the times when studying seems exhausting, not invigorating, and when outside factors beyond your control may interfere with your studies. Having an absolute passion for your course and subject area will be the thread that keeps you engaged and committed throughout your studies.
Affordability and destination
Many employers and professions now require degree level people so depending on your career intentions the investment you make in your studies will, in time, be reflected in your earning potential. Studying also has many costs including tuition fees, travel, parking, books, resources and graduation. When you become a student income streams may change from your benefits entitlement to the amount of paid work you can fit in while studying. Depending on a number of factors you may be entitled to student loans, but they will not necessarily meet all your study related costs. Consider the cost implications for you and your family, revisit your budget and research your possible entitlements.
Support and resilience
Putting your own well-being first will be paramount as you balance study with other life priorities and responsibilities. Making time to participate in other activities offered by the University, from study skills and academic writing workshops to clubs and societies. All are important to help you become a resilient and engaged learner and make the most of your student experience. You will receive support from academics, tutors, peers and well-being service staff as you study. Your family and friends will also be an important part of your supportive network so it’s good to share your study intentions with them and ensure they understand the commitment you have made.
Here are some self-reflective questions (how, what, when, where, who), some research ideas and some considerations to help you plan the most appropriate route to access further study.
|Why do I want to study?
Am I motivated by a prospective career or am I studying purely for interest and academic engagement?
|What do I want to study, what subjects am I interested in, what do I want to find out more about?
If I’m studying for a particular career path how will my course of study help me to access this?
|How often will I need to attend University each week?
How much time can I realistically devote to my own self-directed learning, essay writing, reading and research?
|When would be the right time to return to study? Is it this year, next year? How will I plan for my return to study? What might I need to put in place before I start my studies?
|What route of study will be best for me? Is it part-time, full-time, distance learning, evenings or weekends?
|When do I want to finish my studies? Do I have a timeframe?
|How will I feel when I have to submit my first assignment? How will I respond to tutor feedback? How will I improve my academic skills?
|Who is going to support me in my studies, how can they support me and how will I ask for their help?
|What barriers might I face in my studies and how will I overcome them?
|How will I manage other life commitments and family responsibilities with my studies?
What might I need to change or adapt in order to devote time to my studies?
|How will I meet the cost implications of my studies?
Will I need to consider reducing hours at work, will my benefits change, how will this impact on my financial responsibilities? Will I receive government funding? How much financial support might I receive?