Getting back in to education after a long time away from the classroom can be a daunting experience for many people.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of returning to university, be assured that you are not alone and a comprehensive support network exists to guide you through the transition back in to higher education.
You are not alone
63% of taught postgraduate students in the UK during the 2016/17 academic year were aged 25 or older (HESA, https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/students/whos-in-he) and most of these students will have had a gap since completing their previous education course.
Student Services departments have experience advising mature students about returning to education and Learning Development teams exist to ensure you are able to manage the often rigorous work required to successfully complete a postgraduate programme.
Be sure to reach out to these people before your degree begins to discover what assistance the university can provide you with.
Choose a route that suits you
Traditionally, postgraduate programmes are taught full-time or part-time from the university campus. Depending on your location, lifestyle and responsibilities, you may find it tough to find a course that you can reasonably attend.
However, more universities than ever before are providing online modules as part of their programmes, or offering ‘distance learning’ postgraduate courses that allow you to study from home, but still obtain the qualification.
If you do decide to pursue a distance learning programme, be sure that you have the resources required before your studies commence. This could be anything from ensuring you have a laptop to work on through to confirming that you have access to all the required learning materials.
Make the most of your induction
When you begin your degree, it’s likely that you’ll be given a university induction that may include areas such as library and IT services, academic writing, university support services and course-specific introductions.
These inductions also serve as a great opportunity for you to meet lecturers and fellow students, who you will come to know very well during your studies. Take this chance to get to know the other people on the course and you will soon see that starting a postgraduate degree is a big step for everyone, regardless of how long they have been out of education.
Tips for managing your postgraduate studies
- Create a timetable that includes your hand-in dates and set yourself deadlines to easily identify priorities.
- Much of postgraduate study is self-guided, but that doesn’t mean you should only show up for lectures and leave when they end. Engage with your lecturers to gain a further understanding of the topic and receive constructive feedback on your progress.
- Prepare to be flexible. If you are balancing a postgraduate degree with a job and your personal life, it’s important to know that there will be times where you have to shift your focus to or from your coursework.
- Share your deadlines with your work and family so they can understand when you may need more time to focus on your studies. Try to identify times where you may not be able to spend as much time as you’d like on your assessments and see if there are other opportunities to balance it out.
- There will be other people on your ptogramme in a similar situation to you. Seek advice from them and offer support back. A collegiate spirit will help you all as you progress through the course.