Returning to Learning

So you are thinking of returning to learning?

Feel the fear….and do it anyway!

Whatever the motivation behind your decision to return to education, it is quite natural to feel anxious about your decision. This is quite common, for any age group and indeed for any decision we make in life. You are faced with a whole range of uncertainties and understandably, you may feel anxious as a result. It may be difficult to see beyond these anxieties and as such you may find that you doubt your decision to return to education. However, with the right preparation and adequate supports as you study, you should find that your anxieties will be short lived. Over the coming weeks we will look at some key issues involved in the return for education for the adult learner.

Returning to Learning

You are not alone

If you are of more mature years, you may feel you are too old, that only school leavers go to college. On the contrary, statistics from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) show that on the 1st January 2014 over 30% of fulltime enrolments (undergraduate and postgraduate) across all HEA institutions in Ireland were mature (23 and over). Further statistics from the HEA indicate that in 2012/2013 over 90% of part time enrolments (undergraduate and postgraduate) are in the 23 plus category (HEA, 2014).

Better with age

Therefore, being of mature years should not deter you from pursuing that qualification. In fact many of the mature students whom I have worked with over the years find that they are more focused on their course and study in their adulthood than they ever were in their teenage years. So being of mature years can in fact be an advantage as you have considerable life experience and/or relevant work experience to support your studies.

Get back

Those who have been away from the education system for any period of time may feel they are out of touch with study and all that goes with it. Getting back into the habit of study may be a primary concern for you. Getting used to the new routine and change in your circumstances may pose a challenge for some. Other concerns can include financial worries and managing the work/life/study balance. While it can be a challenge, the end really does justify the means (I can personally vouch for this). Preparation is essential here as is a positive mental attitude – I have seen many mature students return after varying periods away from formal education and successfully manage their studies. There is no need to feel that a long period away from formal education puts you at a disadvantage.

To help get you started, consider the following points (be honest with yourself):

1.            What is your schedule like right now?

2.            What can you re-schedule or omit from your week?

3.            Do you have family or friends you can call on to help with child-minding, family etc.?

4.            What are the fee arrangements for your course?

5.            How will you meet these fees?

Start to plan

Preparation is vital to success and the answer to these questions will help you to focus your thinking and create a workable plan. By having a clear look at your schedule and removing/re-scheduling some activities, you can help alleviate some of the fear. Identifying key people in your life who can offer you support can also be a huge stress reliever.

Ensure to start your planning well in advance of the course start date to ensure you have the opportunity to source all the support you need in terms of people support and also financial support. While the process of applying and getting ready for the return to study can be straightforward, it can take time, especially when you require the input of others. It is important to give yourself the time you need to ensure you have put in place everything you need to help you through your upcoming course.

An important point to remember is summed up in the words of Benjamin Franklin (or was it Roy Keane?), ‘fail to plan and you plan to fail’.

Interested in returning to study. Read some of our student views on returning to learning with the OTC here. Further details on our courses and how we support students can be found here.

Details on a free workshop event to allow you to engage with return to learning first hand  can be accessed here.