How do we manage working, family commitments and study all at the same time?

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By Anthony Bennett

I am amazed and proud to be one of the many mature students that have qualified with a university degree, and when I graduated there were many more people out there that also achieved their goals: mothers, fathers, ‘care people’.

Some people want to study higher education but feel like they are being selfish because of their family commitments, but when it gets hard you have to remember that you are a part of that family unit as well and stimulating your mind and hearts desires are a priority.

It does mean that sometimes you have late or sleepless nights grinding away at a piece of coursework or an essay, or having to read materials, books and articles on your chosen subject area while watching your child play. But humans can accomplish amazing feats when the challenge arises. 

Some technological advances could have been tailor-made for mature students, who are more than likely to have other claims on their time. Computer rooms are accessible 24/7; the library (should you ever need to physically go there) is likely to be open late.

There are many ways to handle both family commitments and studying, but the best way to start doing this is by talking to people, letting lecturers know about your home situation is a great start, I made it a point to inform my lecturers about my home care needs and got amazing support and advice from them on using online tutorials that I could access from home. Student and university advisors can help you find local nurseries that can watch your children while you’re in lectures, I also discovered that my children really like art museums so I was able to take them with me when I needed to go and see certain exhibitions at the weekend. 

You may have to do a lot of planning with timetables and dates but I found that the support was there most of the time as long as I asked for it and didn’t try to do it on my own. A diary is your best friend, and a laptop could become your lover! It’s not always easy to juggle both sets of commitments at the same time – they both demand long hours of attention, but in the end the sense of satisfaction makes it all worth it.

And here I stand at 31 years old with a BSc 2.1 in Multimedia Solutions. As I said before, humans can accomplish great feats when they try.

10 tips for Mature Student Freshers 

  1. DO remember that relevant skills come in all sorts of guises; simply being able to get up early will be a surprisingly big help
  2. DO prepare to become a time-management freak; any spare minute becomes valuable
  3. DO make your computer your new best friend; if you’re technologically sorted, you may never have to set foot in the library and you’ll be able to work at 6am or midnight, whichever is more convenient
  4. DO make friends with key departmental staff; they are likely to be lovely people and incredibly helpful in all kinds of ways
  5. DO take advantage of the support systems on offer if you need to; your university wants you to succeed, and suffering in silence is not brave, it’s just stupid
  6. DON’T underestimate the importance of going to lectures, despite the advances in online learning; they are both a vital part of the course
  7. DON’T leave anything until the final hours, whether it’s coursework or revision; you are more likely than the teenagers to have a last-minute drain on your time
  8. DON’T miss out on taking advantage of everything that university can offer
  9. DON’T be fooled by the youngsters’ non caring  attitude to deadlines; they’ll be sweating as much as you when the key dates start looming
  10. DON’T panic. Once you’re over the first week of the first term, you’re well on your way
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