How to get back into learning

The older we get, the more daunted we become about the prospect of returning to education. We doubt ourselves, proclaiming we’re too old or out of touch to re-enter the classroom. But here is the thing… you are never too old to learn.

In fact, during the last two decades, there has been a rapid rise in the number of adults becoming mature students.

What has triggered this rise in mature students?

There are several reasons why you might want to get back into learning:

  1. You want to change your career but your current qualifications aren’t enough/aren’t the right qualifications to help you make the transition. As such, you need to complete a new course to successfully enter this new field or make the move.
  2. You want to move up the career ladder/get a promotion – This is particularly true if you want to enter into a management position, but don’t have the relevant experience to enable you to apply. In this instance, completing a business management qualification could give you the edge you need to apply if you can’t get the experience you need.
  3. Circumstances prevented you from attending further education when you were younger – From starting a family to being unable to afford it at the time, many mature students have had to wait until they were older/better off before being able to study the courses they want.
  4. Didn’t know what you wanted to do when you were younger – Not everyone knows what they want to do/where they want to work at 16-18 years old. For some, the realisation comes much later in life and as such, the decision to go to university/get back into education happens when they are older.
  5. Want to meet new people and experience new things – Sometimes the desire to reconnect with education stems from a subconscious need to meet new people and branch out from your current situation. Embarking on a new course or returning to education can open such doors, as it will allow you to meet, speak and engage with new faces who are similarly interested in the same topics/subject you are.
  6. Catch up on anything you missed out on at school – Some of us regret the grades we got when we were younger and want to bolster them. Thanks to online courses and colleges, it is possible to return to education and improve our pre-existing grades, from GCSE up to degree level.

What do you need to do to get back into learning?

If you’re serious about re-entering the academic arena, then you should consider speaking with a careers adviser first. With their support, they can help you to identify your reasons, goals, and aspirations, as well as help you to improve your CV, prepare for interviews and create an action plan of how you want to tackle it all.

Do you want to physically go to college/university or do you want to learn from home? Do you want to study full time or do you need a course that you can tailor to fit around your current commitments? Can you afford to pay for the course in one go, or do you need any financial help? If so, what are your financial help options?

Essentially, careers advisors can help you to answer all of these budding questions, and give you the perspective and the resources you need to face them head-on.

Next step – Understanding your strengths…

Even if you haven’t been in a classroom for a while, life will have taught you valuable and transferable skills that will benefit you as you embark on your learning journey.

  • Organising your time – Being able to manage your time isn’t simply a school thing. From organising trips, holidays, and parties, to managing your daily workload and social schedule; for years you will have been developing and honing this skill.
  • Asking questions – Questions are a part of everyday life, and are something you do without even thinking. Learning will get you utilising your natural curiosity as you begin to work your way through the syllabus.
  • Listening to people – Even if you opt for a distance learning course, you will be presented with opportunities to speak with your tutor, collaborate with other online learners and watch educational videos. In each instance, you will need to listen, absorb and pay attention.
  • Solving problems – Again, you probably utilise this skill every day without even thinking about it. In an educational setting, you will need to take this ability and harness it to a whole new level.

Step Two – Find the right course

You have spoken to a careers advisor. You have assessed your strengths. Now, you are ready to find the right course.

And this can be easier said than done, especially if your desire to get back into learning isn’t career or promotion-focused, but is purely down to you wanting to challenge and extend yourself.

At this point in your journey, you need to sit down and question what you want out of this course. Likewise, you need to determine what you are comfortable with.

For example, do you want to do exams or do you want to study a course that is assessment based i.e. where you build up a portfolio of work after each module or where you do a practical demonstration of your skills? If exams are not your forte, then there are numerous courses you can explore that have no exam requirements.

Likewise, you need to be honest with yourself about the kind of learner you are. Do you flourish better within a structured and regimented environment, where the syllabus is kept to a strict timescale and is led by a physical teacher? If that is the case, then a college or university course would be better suited to you as the deadlines set by your lecturer would force you to stay on track and not get distracted.

On the other hand, if you learn best when you are given the freedom to absorb the syllabus at your own pace, then you may want to consider doing an online course. Distance learning has the benefit of allowing you to manage your own time, and fit your studies around your current work and social commitments.

This means, that if you need to continue working, you can do so without feeling stressed or pressured by set deadlines. In turn, online learning can be done at a time, pace, and location of your choosing. So no matter whether you learn best in 30-minute segments; are a night owl, or simply know that you learn better in solitude; you can choose how you learn and retain the syllabus to the best of your ability. You just need to be certain that you’ll remain motivated and dedicated enough to complete the course, without external prompts. For more information on online courses, click here.

Step Three – higher education?

Something that is rarely advertised about being a mature student is that most universities will consider a range of qualifications when looking at applications, as well as will give you credit from previous work experience.

This means, if you want to go further with your learning, you don’t have to shy away from the idea of attending university. Universities are well-equipped to support mature students and ensure that your transition onto campus is a smooth one.

Another thing to consider is – you don’t have to physically attend a university to get a degree. You can now enrol onto Open University courses, where you can complete the degree and post-graduate qualifications, without having to physically go to university. And this is ideal if you’re not in a position to move away (due to work or family) or your local university doesn’t offer the course you want. Instead, you can continue with the distance learning route and still achieve an accredited qualification on your terms.

If on the other hand, you aspire to go to university but you don’t possess the standard entry requirements, then you could consider doing an Access course. Access courses don’t need any formal qualifications, but instead enable you to develop your study skills, knowledge, and confidence without pressure.

Step Four – put your plan into action

You’ve discussed it. You’ve planned for it. You know exactly what you want to do. The final step is applying for the course you want and getting back into learning.

So go for it! Turn this idea into a reality! You’ve already created a solid foundation upon which to work, so don’t let any further fears or doubts prevent you from making your dreams real and tangible.

Distance learning, college course, or university degree… the world is your oyster, so take advantage of how much easier it is these days to get the qualifications you want and make it happen.

For more help/guidance on how to get back into learning, visit our website today and witness the number of accredited qualifications you can do from the comfort of your own home.

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