Being in freshman year is always stressful, no matter how old you are. It can be especially stressful when you are a mature student going into the first year with kids between the ages 17-18. As they find themselves throughout the year, half will drop out and others will find their niche. Normally a mature student already knows their niche, has passed the alcohol and party stage in their life, they may have a family or personal obligations such as bills to pay or a job to attend. So, being surrounded by people in a different stage of life can be really challenging. I’m going to give you some tips today regarding how to get through your first year as a mature student.
I’ll admit when I went back to school at age twenty-two, I judged the kids that were in my year as immature and privileged. Many of them would talk in class about their fake ID’s, parties, and pop culture references I didn’t understand (who knew five years is basically a decade in the modern world). However, I found their work ethic to be surprisingly adequate. When we were put into groups, I wasn’t worried someone would not contribute, nor was I scared to share my ideas. They were respectful and contributed equally (for the most part) to our group projects. Don’t judge others for being in a part of life you have surpassed, if you look back to when you were seventeen-years-old, you would have probably fit in easily with the kids you are working with now and you could’ve even been intimidated by an older student. Try to keep an open mind going into your first year.
Get to know your TA’s and Professors
It’s hard to go into a situation where your teachers or TA’s are the same age as you, or younger. My TA’s were all younger than me so having them mark my work was a little embarrassing. I felt ashamed because they had less life experience yet here they are deciding my fate. I think it’s really important to remember that professors and TA’s are people first. Many people avoid or try and schmooze the TA’s as if they are untouchable, but my sister was a TA, my Dad’s a principle, and my grandpa was a university professor…if you see how they act at home, you probably wouldn’t think they’re that intimidating! You never know what’s going on in someone else’s life or what they have been through, so try not to make age the defining point in your relationship.
Don’t be cocky!
Age is kind of a statement in life, the older you are the more respect you deserve. This is a culture created situation which is dependant on the society we live in, however, in Canada elders are known to be respected (until they’re too old, but that’s a blog post for another day). If you want to make friends, fit in, and have fun while at university, forget age. You aren’t better than the others simply because you were born in an earlier time. I personally found it really freaky I was in the same class as kids born in the 2000’s! You don’t have to ignore your age difference altogether but try not to use it as leverage or a power play which is sometimes done unintentionally.
Use your age to your advantage
You have learned from every experience you’ve had in life, which is more than a lot of your first-year classmates. This isn’t a negative thing-use it to your advantage. Depending on your program and what you want to major in will curate the type of work you will be asked to do, but most first-year courses are the same in an introductory form. Many of these classes default to essay writing and professors (at least in my experience) love to hear your thesis backed by real-life situations. If you took a few years off you probably worked, had to take care of yourself, had children, or was a caregiver for someone. Use that story throughout your university career. People love stories, of course, remember to follow the syllabus but remember that people are emotional beings who can connect to you through words, do you want them to connect over a quote from someone else? Or your own proven experiences?
Organize and prioritize your health
Your health is more important than your education, which includes your mental health. If you are struggling with any type of disability or impairment be sure to check in with accessibility services at your place of education. Remember to make connections with people within your programs such as department heads, academic advisors, and alumni. There are dozens and dozens of resources colleges and universities have to offer now and days, I would say there is a support group for pretty much anything you can think of. Remember that the quality of your work matters much more than the quantity. You don’t have to follow timelines, take a lower course load, and put your health first; whatever that means for you. If you don’t put your health before your education, both you and your grades will suffer. University is something that’s meant to be fun, eye-opening, and educational. Don’t count the days until it’s over, enjoy them!