Nowadays, more and more mature students—people over the age of 21—are pursuing higher education. They may want to change careers, add a few more qualifications to get a promotion, or maybe they simply like to learn. Whatever the reason might be, being a mature student can be challenging.
Mature students have been out of school for a while, and may be a little rusty on some skills needed for higher education. Some have busy schedules, full-time jobs, and families to take care of. Thankfully, many higher education institutions are offering distance learning programs that can make learning easier for bust students.
With distance learning, the challenges of being a mature student can be overcome if you play to your strengths and make the necessary adjustments to make the experience enriching and successful.
Find the right program
Many distance learning providers such as ICS Learn offer online courses. While choosing a program may be exciting, you need to focus on considering the amount of coursework and time that these programs require. It is best to think carefully about which program will fit in best with your goals as well as your lifestyle and your other commitments.
Set realistic but inspiring goals
Why are you pursuing distance learning education? What’s in store for you if you succeed? What new and amazing opportunities will open up for you? Distance learning is beneficial, obviously, but you need to keep your specific personal goals in mind. You will need to focus on these goals to motivate yourself when you feel anxious, stressed, or when you feel like giving up.
Take advantage of your skills
Being a little older means that you are (hopefully) a little wiser. Mature students have had more life experiences and know their strengths and weaknesses. You are probably an expert at scheduling the things you have to do. You probably know how to balance spreadsheets and meet strict deadlines. Use whatever skills you have developed throughout the years to ace your program.
Brush up on your other skills
While you have skills and experiences that younger students lack, the skills you learned as a younger student may be a little rusty. These skills are still vital in coping with continuing your education, so there is nothing to lose in updating them. You can take some lessons in learning new computer skills at local educational institutions. There are some online courses on writing academic papers and conducting research, and some schools may offer online programs on study skills for older students.
Involve your family and friends in your distance learning venture. Ask your spouse, sibling, parent, or friend to pick up the kids from school on certain days. Maybe your spouse or kids can take on some extra housework. Maybe you can even do your homework alongside your kids. Also, do not hesitate to ask your professor any questions you might have. Having a steady support system at this time can be of utmost importance.
If you have kids, you may benefit from sitting them down and explaining that you are continuing your education. You can explain that you will need some time to yourself, or some peace and quiet at some point in the day. You can speak to your spouse and ask for help in enforcing these boundaries. If you do not have kids, you can explain to your family and friends that you will be spending a little less time with them while you are studying.
Give yourself some space
One thing that a formal schooling offers is a structured learning environment. Fortunately, this is not something you have to sacrifice when you choose distance learning. You can set aside a room or even a corner in your house as your official “study space”. Make sure that this space is quiet, uncluttered, and free from distractions. You can orient your seating in such a way that you face away from the rest of your house. That way, you can focus only on your coursework when you need to.
Give yourself some time
You can also set a definite schedule that you can easily follow, like setting aside two hours in the mornings and two hours in the afternoons to read up or finish your assignments. Hang up a calendar over your desk and mark deadlines. Make sure to spread your coursework and other commitments out evenly to avoid getting swamped. Make sure to also give yourself frequent breaks to avoid burning out.
Go easy on yourself
You may have some expectations of yourself as you start distance learning. A few of these expectations, however, may be too much and may cause you undue stress. It is important to give yourself some time to adjust to this new experience. You may not be as disciplined or as focused as you expect yourself to be at the beginning. This is completely fine and normal, and you will soon be able to perform as well as you expect yourself to.
Find people who are in the same boat
If you can, make friends with people in the same program. You can ask for help when a particular reading assignment is giving you a hard time. It also doesn’t hurt to simply chat about anything with people in your program. You can also convince a friend of yours to take the same course with you. It can definitely help to feel connected to others who are experiencing the same thing.
Distance learning can be difficult but rewarding. Just think of the opportunities that a new qualification can give you. You can start lucrative, stable careers in fields such as accountancy or human resources without having to set foot in a classroom or spend hours in school. You can be qualified for great leadership positions at your company. You can spend time with your family and friends or keep an eye on your kids while continuing your education. In distance learning, you can have your cake—and eat it, too.