Going to college as a mature student can be a daunting prospect but the benefits and the experience far outweigh any worries.
Whether long-term unemployed, retired, studying in a further education college or if you wish to upskill, there is an opportunity to study a full-time undergraduate degree programme.
Mature students are the life-blood of any university, challenging themselves, their classmates and their lecturers so that they may reach their goal. It is my experience that mature students have a clear knowledge of what they wish to achieve in university and this can translate into highly qualified graduates.
A common misperception is that you must have sat a Leaving Certificate (or similar in an EU country) to go to college. As a mature student, you do not have to have a completed Leaving Certificate.
However, some courses do require that you have certain Leaving Certificate subjects studied. For more information about courses available and the requirements for these courses, check with colleges.
The biggest struggle that a lot of mature students face is how to juggle family life with academic life, while trying to afford their education. Getting support from your family and friends is vital to success.
Financing university life can also be a challenge but, depending on personal circumstances, there are various supports in place, such as the SUSI maintenance grant, the Back to Education Allowance and/or the Student Assistance Fund. If you wish to know more about these forms of finance, go to www.studentfinance.ie.
Colleges also offer a range of other advice and supports to help mature students through college life, whether the problem is personal or academic. For instance, the Transition to University Programme at UCC provides students with a working knowledge of the college and its systems, along with various workshops, such as academic writing. Our Mature Student Common Room is a great place to hang out, chat and have a cup of tea with like-minded students.
Mature students applying for certain courses in UCC, UCD and NUI Galway also have to sit an assessment test known as Mature Student Admissions Pathway (MSAP); more information can be found on www.msap.acer.edu.au.
The MSAP is relevant for courses in the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences, UCC; the College of Arts and Celtic Studies and College of Human Sciences, the College of Science and the College of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine in UCD; and the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies in NUI Galway.
It is important to note that the normal closing date for mature student applications for the 2013/14 academic year is February 1, 2013. For information on the application process, go to www.cao.ie.
Applicants for Medicine must apply for and sit the Health Professions Admissions Test (HPAT) and details can be found on www.hpat-ireland.acer.edu.au.
Gary Mulcahy, Mature Student Office, UCC.