In the current education system, it seems as though young people are being encouraged to remain in education more than ever before. When polled, it was found that a lot of young people chose to go to University because it was what was expected of them, rather than because it would help them to improve their career prospects.
However, there are also a growing number of individuals choosing to return to education after taking some time out. The current economic climate means that jobs require qualifications when they wouldn’t have done in the past, forcing some people to retrain and think careful about their careers. For others, it is a decision that is based on family circumstances or individual goals or dreams.
If you are thinking about returning to education after a gap year, or even after 40 years, then it can be daunting. Some people may not even know where to start, or if an education would be possible for them at their current stage in life. Today, we got the chance to interview one such individual who made the brave step back to the classroom at the age of 49.
Lynn is 51 years old, living in Bootle, which has been her hometown since she was born. She has three children and a husband. She left school when she was 16 with 5 CSEs including a grade 1 in English Language, which is the equivalent of a grade “C” in today’s examinations.
After leaving school, she was lucky enough to gain a place as an apprentice at a hairdresser’s. This allowed her to learn as she worked, whilst also attending college one day each week. After three years, she qualified as a hairdresser, and worked in salons until the age of 27 when her first child was born. Due to the high cost of childcare, Lynn found herself living as a single parent on benefits. Wanting the best for her son, and having learned the value of work from her parents (her father was an engineer, and her mother a clerk) she returned to college when her son was 3, and managed to gain 2 GCSEs. Although she would have liked to continue studying at this point, she was unable to gain the support that she needed, and instead opted to volunteer running parent and toddler groups and after school clubs.
When her son was 7, Lynn married her husband and returned to work. Impressively, this led to her owning her own salon and working full time at the business that she owned. After a year, it was decided that it would be more beneficial and flexible to move into a mobile business.
Before making the decision to go to University, Lynn worked as a teaching assistant for 18 months after attending college to gain maths and teaching assistant qualifications. Although Lynn had always want to go on to higher education, she had never had the confidence to do so. However, after losing two sisters to cancer, she decided that she didn’t want to live life with any regrets, and applied to study for a Psychology degree. Lynn had an interest in psychology long before this, having read a lot of related texts from the library. There were a number of modules in the course that specifically interested her; particularly those to do with child development and education. Not only did she have the motivation, but she also had support from family and friends to ensure that she would be able to cope with childcare. Having seen her husband return to education to complete a mental health nursing course, she fully understood the implications that being a student would have, including income.
One of the things that many people may worry about when applying to university as a mature student is the way that student finance works. Lynn found them to be incredibly frustrating as an organization, as they lost letters on numerous occasions. In addition to this, the helpline was found to be unhelpful, with nobody seeming to know which department she needed to speak to.
With this is mind, it is vital that you take the time to work out what you’re entitled to. Read everything that you can from the student finance website to ensure that you know how much you could receive, and when you should be getting it into your account. You may also find that you need to provide proof of your household income. If you are married, this will include that of your partner. If you have everything ready before you apply, this will make the process much easier. Knowing what you are entitled to will help, as it means that you won’t be confused by the seemingly never ending paperwork and correspondence.
Another thing that you may be worried about is making friends. Because of the fact that you won’t have taken the same path as those who have come straight from sixth form, you may feel as though you won’t be able to relate to them. Certainly, this is an issue that Lynn felt could pose problems for her. However, when she arrived on her course, she found that she was able to talk to people easily. She made friends with numerous other students, some of which had come straight from sixth form, and she feels as though they will be friends for life. Lynn found that they were helpful to her through her time at university, especially in assignments and exam preparations, and in return she was able to offer help which supported them through their studies and personal lives. Not only did she have a strong support group within university, but also her friends and family at home were vital to her success.
Lynn graduated with a 2:1 BSc (Hons) degree in Psychology in 2012. She would like to go on to a masters course in adult nursing, and has applied to do so. If this is not successful, she wishes to work with children and families, as this is something that she is passionate about.
For Lynn, returning to education gave her not only a taste of different lifestyle, but also the chance to take her life down another path than may not have been possible without gaining a degree. By being proactive, she has ensured that she has invested not only in her own life, but also that of her children and partner.
If returning to education is something that you feel would benefit you, then I would urge you to research and get the information that you need to help you make an informed decision. You may find that you are able to change your life, and this means that it would be more than worth it in the long term. Education is an extremely powerful key that allows you to open doors into your future; grasp the chance to turn it with both hands.