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Mature students have mixed feelings about starting a university course. Excitement may be one of them but apprehension is also very common. Many students feel that way, it is a natural reaction to a big life change; talk to others and you will soon find you are not the only one. During your first week there will be lots of people around who can guide you if you get lost. Ask them for help.
As a mature student, it can be quite daunting to find so many younger people studying with you. It is useful to remember that they are probably as nervous as you are and many of them will have left home for the first time in their lives, so your life experience may well be helpful to them at a mutually difficult time. There will be opportunities during your first week to meet everyone who is studying your course, so get stuck in and talk to other students there.
If you are living locally, don’t be tempted to skip social events in the early stages, do your best to be involved. Events are planned to ensure that as many different people can get to know other students during that first week. Don’t be shy, approach others and just start talking, it is amazing how successful that can be.
Find out what your timetable is – where you need to be, and when you need to be there, for each of the courses you are studying. This may involve you seeking out the lecture theatres, labs or teaching rooms during the first week. Make a visit to the Library to see the layout and get to know how to use the online catalogue. It is sometimes best to do this with a friend, as you can work it out together. There will be follow-up sessions during the term as well in case you have any difficulty.
If you have caring responsibilities, have you managed to organise someone to help you during your first year when it is most difficult finding your feet? Think about study time and visits to the library as well as formal teaching time. Studying, as you will know, changes your pattern of activities. Make sure you have discussed this with your family and friends so that they understand what will change in your life as a student. Get to know where you can get advice if you need it. You may not ever need to take advantage of these services but it is as well to know about them.
If you are working while you study, have you discussed the changes that are likely to occur to your work routine as a result of your studies with your manager?
Talk to the people who are studying with you and get to know your tutors. This will help you with your studies as there are a range of people who could help you with any difficulties you may encounter during the course of the year. Think about setting up a study group with others on your course. Be sure you know what is expected of you and that you know when you have to meet a deadline for your work.
St George’s enforces deadlines for coursework very strictly and we expect students to be responsible for their own study and to hand work in on time. If you are unsure of dates or the content of an assignment, ask your tutor. Do attend all sessions that you are allocated to attend. Research shows attendance has a significant effect on how well students do. If you miss a session, make sure you go to the next one. Don’t let it become a habit.
If you find that you are having trouble with your studies, speak to your personal tutor. If you don’t know who that is, ask at the Student Centre and we’ll get you pointed in the right direction.
Enjoy your free time and relax when you can. Balancing studies, work and trying to have a family and social life is often difficult but it is essential that you find a good mix for you. Don’t leave any problems and hope they will go away, get them sorted out as soon as possible. Find an appropriate person to talk to. If you are unsure who to talk to, ask your personal yutor or one of the team in the Student Centre.
Remember that you are a capable, intelligent person—you wouldn’t be here otherwise! Some planning will avoid unnecessary difficulties. It’s not going to be easy, but believe in yourself and you will get there.