Whilst much of the literature around university is themed around going to university straight from college or A-Levels, there is always the option of attending university as a mature student. There are all sorts of advantages and disadvantages to being a mature student, and it’s worth considering it at great length before you apply to university later in life.

What age is a mature student in the UK?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be in your 40s or 50s to be classed as a mature student. In fact, the definition of a mature student in the UK is anyone over the age of 21 (when most students who went straight after Sixth Form would have graduated.) In fact, over half of mature students are aged between 21 and 24, according to UCAS. Likewise, around 40% are over 30. Therefore waiting a few years before entering Higher Education can be a great option for students- particularly those hoping to get into a good university with lower grades. Read on to find out more.

Advantages of being a mature student

Being older when you apply and head to university has plenty of advantages, otherwise, there would be far fewer mature students enrolled!

mature students
Source: Times Higher Education

1. You have more of a plan

As you go through life, you slowly develop more of an idea of who you are, and what it is that you want to do. If you go into university with these ideas in mind, you’re much more likely to choose and apply for a course that will benefit your career path and aspirations.

Likewise, if you know where you want to end up, you can tailor your degree to better suit those goals by picking the most relevant modules, as opposed to simply whatever seems fun or whatever your university friends are doing as many younger students do.

2. Entry requirements are more flexible

Generally, when you apply to university straight from college or sixth form, you will have to hit entry requirements that are quite strict and can be quite a challenge to reach. These will either be UCAS points or a series of specific grades – sometimes in specific subjects.

However, when you apply to a university as a mature student, these entry requirements are often significantly more flexible. Many degrees will consider relevant training, work experience and even personal experience as part of your applications. This might include things like 5 years working as an IT support assistant for a degree in IT, or working as an English tutor for an English degree.

3.  You can use your life experience

There is a reason that universities will accept life experience as a valid replacement for grades and UCAS points – you can use your life experience in the classroom. Whether this is helping other students with quicker ways to build a PC that you learnt whilst working as an IT assistant. Or perhaps it is your gardening experience that comes in handy whilst you’re studying for an agriculture degree.

It could even be as simple as using the self-discipline, confidence, organisation and note-taking that you’ve developed throughout your other jobs and day-to-day life.

4. Graduate mature students are more likely to find work

Many usual graduate students find themselves struggling to find work after university. This is often because whilst they’ve succeeded in obtaining a degree, they haven’t got the experience and other qualifications that mature students will have. For more reading, check out the skills that graduates need to have before joining the workforce. 

Disadvantages of being a mature student

However, as with most career choices and changes, there are also some disadvantages that come with being a mature student too.

mature students
Source: University of Sussex

1. Having had time out from learning can make it hard

Students tend to go from school or sixth form to university, but if you’ve had a few (or more than a few) years away from education, it might be hard for you to adapt back to it. Taking notes, hitting deadlines, doing homework, referencing, writing essays, doing projects, presentations and all of the other things that come with education can be really hard to get used to!

2. The financial changes

Many mature students go from well-paid jobs and high-end salaries to suddenly having to work part-time or taking a significant pay cut. Adjusting to this reduction in disposable cash can be really quite difficult, especially if nothing else in your situation has changed. You still have to pay rent, and utility bills and for many mature students there is also the issue of childcare and other child-related costs. It can be hard to navigate earning much less and fitting in studying whilst still making ends meet!

However, there are some ways around this – you can speak to your university’s student services about what student hardship funds and services they have to offer.

3. Feeling like you’re missing out

When you’re a mature student you might feel a little bit left out in your seminars and lectures, as whilst there are a good number of mature students, they are unlikely to be the majority in your lessons. The students that are there may well have cliques, and breaking into them, especially as an older student, can be quite isolating and difficult.

So, those are just some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a mature student. Would you consider going to university later in life? Let us know why (or why not.)

Last Updated on September 2, 2022