How to go to University as a Mature Student


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Who Counts as a Mature Student?

A mature student is any person studying for a Degree or Master’s level qualification over a certain age.

who counts as a mature student

When you apply for an undergraduate degree, you are a mature student if you are 21 or older.

When you apply for a postgraduate degree, you are a mature student if you are 23 or older.

It’s that simple. Some of you might be surprised to find you are already mature. As you’ll see below, there are many benefits to being a mature student, and you might not realise quite how diverse in age part-time students are.

Strengths of Being a Mature Student

Older students can bring a lot to universities. As well as how much work and life experience they have, older students are also good at planning what they want from their studies and how to achieve that goal. They are driven and have wider experiences to draw from when undertaking the work.

Life Experience

Having a few years under your belt brings a lot of advantages when you study. Not only do older students tend to be very well-prepared and organised, but they can also add a lot to the learning experience for everyone in the class.

Most mature students have been adults for many years. They know how to deal with difficult situations and how to work under pressure.

Life experience and lifelong learning

Dedication & Motivation

With important goals to reach, older students have the motivation to keep studying. As a result, they are more likely to attend every lecture, do coursework to a high standard and be dedicated to how they approach their studies.

Older students are highly self-disciplined and independent. These traits mean that mature students get the most from their learning experience.

Time Management

Mature students know how to fit studying around life commitments, which is key to flexible learning.

Good time management is a vital life skill that can make or break part-time studying. Good time management is excellent for getting the most out of each class and how much you can fit in before deadlines or exams.


Returning to study is a life-changing experience that will open up new possibilities and experiences. But being realistic on timeframes and commitments is vital for study success.

Luckily, as an older student, you already know how to manage your time. You also have a clear plan on how the study fits into your longer-term goals. You can find more detailed information about timeframes for taking an online Master’s here.

The Reality of Managing Work, Family and Study

Balancing study and family

Many older students are often professionals, people with families or both, but this does not mean they cannot balance family life and study.

Online, part-time study provides motivated individuals with the opportunity to progress their academic journey and keep their career momentum and family life intact.

Part-time Study and Flexible Options

For online courses, you will find that the majority are mature students. The flexibility is ideally suited to juggling existing career and family commitments while gaining a higher education certificate. Most online and part-time courses also offer study breaks if required when urgent work or family situations arise.

With no need to relocate to be near the University, it means that online students can aim for what is most suitable and not be limited to courses on offer locally.

Returning to Study

One of the biggest challenges facing mature students can be getting used to studying again or for the first time at a higher level.

The good news is that the qualities listed above mean that older students can take this in their stride. In addition, being an older student, you are more aware of areas where you are confident and areas where you need to improve.

Luckily, plenty of resources are available, regardless of your level, ability or confidence, from formatting an essay to critical thinking or correctly referencing a source.

Returning to study

Access Courses for Mature Students

Suppose you have a non-standard academic background (this means not having A-levels in the UK) or no college-level certification at all. As a mature student, you have more options to gain access to University.

If you have no A-level or equivalent qualifications, you can start by taking an introductory access to Higher education Diploma. These provide a good foundation for university study.

The access to HE website has more detailed information about Access courses.

Study Skills Refresher Course

Mature students who are returning to study may find that they have forgotten some of the basics.

For some, an excellent way to hit the ground running is to attend a short course to brush up on specific topics or skills. This can be a great way to see if balancing work and study is right for you before committing to a longer course. You can search online short courses here to find the exact area you want to improve.

Fitting in as a Mature Student

Being older than your fellow students or the tutor is something that many feels will be an issue before they start studying as mature students.

But for part-time online mature students, this is rarely an issue as most students will be classed as mature. Furthermore, some courses require specific amounts and levels of work experience even to join, meaning that 100% of your fellow students will be mature students.

Online Courses and Mature Students

The majority of online degree courses and master’s degrees are part-time. The combined flexibility of accessing the learning from home at times that suit are ideal for mature students.

Age of part-time, postgraduate students in the UK

You might be surprised at how many mature students there are at University. These charts show the mix of mature Vs younger students on all part-time UK undergraduate and postgraduate courses in 2019/20. You can find further breakdowns in part-time student characteristics on the HESA website.

age if part-time undergraduate student in the UK 2019/2020

Applications Process and Tps

One of the key benefits of being a mature student is that universities will consider your life experience. To reflect this, University admissions’ teams have more flexibility when assessing applications from mature students.

Entry Requirements for Mature Students

Universities typically list their entry requirements online. These guidelines normally cover only the standard student profile and qualifications due to the sheer number of certificate types that exist.

A normal step in the application process can involve sending scans of previous certificates to the University to be checked by the admission team. This is especially true for international students as the admissions team will also carry out checks to understand the equivalent level.

If your existing qualifications are not listed, or you are unsure in any way about your suitability, you should contact the course provider and go over your background with them. If they think you will succeed on the course, they will guide you on how to progress your application.

Career Experience

A considerable advantage of being a mature student applying for a course is that career experience can count. In fact, for many industry-focused postgraduate courses having a certain amount of real-world job experience is a must.

Be sure to include your career experience when applying. Even if you don’t think it is directly relevant, you can use these experiences in the application to show your motivation, resilience, or problem-solving skills.

Career experience is vital for an MBA

Digging Out Old Certificates

Spending a weekend rooting through your parent’s loft, trying to find old certificates can cause panic to many if you haven’t seen them in many years. But all may not be lost.

Most universities and colleges keep records of past students achievements. You can ask the University you are applying to check directly with your old college or University.

Sometimes you can request a new set of transcripts from your old college. However, this process may involve a fee.

Will Poor School Grades Affect Your Application?

Universities will often look at your most recent academic qualifications. As long as you have good work experience and more recent higher-level qualifications, they may not even consider your school grades.

Make Your Applications Stand Out

The application is where mature students have a massive advantage over younger learners. Having a more diverse CV and a more comprehensive range of experiences will highlight how that extra experience has given you valuable insights and perspectives to bring to the course.

The application process where mature students can shine and persuade the admissions team to offer a place on the course.

Personal Statement Quick Tips

The dreaded university personal statement. It can be difficult to know how to approach writing about yourself.

Here are five quick tips to get you started.

1) Be positive and enthusiastic

2) Plan and structure your statement- Have a start, middle and ending.

3) Highlight your key skills and experiences with real-life examples

4) Write down all your ideas, however small they seem, then edit them down.

5) Take your time. Proofread, check and double-check!

UCAS has an excellent video by Jane marshall who’s job is to read personal statements. We highly recommend you watch the video.

Writing a personal statement

Financial Support and Funding

As a mature student, you may be eligible for a grant or loan to help pay your fees. In addition, most Mature students often use a mixture of methods to fund University: student loans, savings and commercial loans.

Access to Higher Education Loans

If you do not have A-level or equivalent certificates and plan on taking an Access to Higher education diploma or similar. You can get government support via an Advanced Learner Loan if you are a UK resident.

These loans do not reflect household income or earnings. Also, any outstanding loan amount gets written off once you graduate with degree-level qualifications. You can find out more here about the advanced learner loan.

Student Finance for Mature Students

The good news is that there is no upper age limit on getting a student loan for a Master’s degree level and your first undergraduate degree. You can even get funding for a second degree in certain subjects. This page has a guide to student finance in general.

However, you may be limited in the amount you can borrow if you are over the age of 60 when you apply. Therefore, it is best to refer to this site for up-to-date student loan eligibility criteria.

Student Discount

If you are on a part-time online degree or Master’s course, you will be eligible for student discounts and an NUS card.

Being a part-time student means you can enjoy discounts on lots of things. You’ll also be able to take advantage of reduced travel prices, free entry to museums and galleries, plus much more.

Save the student website has an excellent up to date list of what’s available to you in the UK and online.

Search Online Courses

We hope you found this blog post helpful and insightful. Mature students may feel like they have a lot to take on, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to study at university level!

Many aspects make being a mature student a more rewarding and valuable experience. The extra life experience adds value and is a positive for any student.

If returning to study is something you’re seriously considering, we recommend looking at some of our other posts in our resources sections. These blogs cover some of the areas looked at above in more detail.

You can search online courses by level and subject by following the links below.

UK Universities Offering Online Courses

Seach Online Short courses

Search Online Degrees

Search Online Master’s 

Search Online HND/Diplomas

More resources

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