Working full time, managing a family or over 30 and returning to study after a long break, these are all examples of ‘non-traditional’ students.
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency the second largest demographic of students studying HE qualifications, past the age of traditional university education, is the 30+ age group, which would be for the most part the ‘non-traditional’ student.
It is obvious that there are challenges to returning and managing study at this stage of life. Leaving aside the difficulties that an aging brain can have in retaining the knowledge, there is the real and tangible problem of dealing with managing personal time, family responsibilities and work and career demands.
What are the pros and cons of returning to study?
Managing demands on time
Handling your study, your family demands and a full-time role requires a good level of planning and effective time management. Some things to consider if you are embarking on a study programme;
Update your employer, if your study will also benefit the organisation there may be opportunities for them to support you by utilising flexible working to make a more ‘study friendly’ schedule
Use your time effectively, do you commute? Is there an opportunity to use that time for a bite size chunk of study?
Sadly, for the non-traditional student, returning to study can often feel out of reach due to financial constraints. If there is a benefit to your organisation in you learning new skills and gaining professional qualifications there is often a willingness by employees to either fully fund your studies or partially, organisations will often prefer the latter as this can show a level of commitment on your part which they will actively support. It is often worth preparing a business case showing how your study will benefit the organisation and raising this during an appraisal or performance review.
Focus and Drive
When study was essential it is often the case we couldn’t see the ‘benefits’ of learning. As more mature students there is a real purpose to learning and a drive to progress either in your chosen career or just on a personal development level. This means you want to learn and this has the effect of a greater focus on studies than when you were younger.
As a ‘non-traditional’ student who is choosing to return to study there are a few questions to consider before you make the financial and time commitment required;
What are your motivations for studying?
What are your career aspirations and will this study course help you get there?
Are you passionate about the subject?
How much spare time do you have to dedicate to studying?
Once you are sure of your answers to these questions the next step is simply deciding on what you want to study!