If we did all the things we are capable of, we would be amazed.
~ Thomas Edison ~
Depending on the university or education institution, students aged over 20 or 21 prior to enrolment are considered mature students in Australia. Mature age students are becoming increasingly common in universities and TAFE institutions throughout Australia, and are enrolled in courses from vocational or certificate level through to diploma and bachelor degree courses, and, of course, post-graduate courses.
Many mature students in Australia combine study with either full time or part time work.
If you're interested in pursuing further study, keep reading to find out how you, too, can go back to school — no matter what your age is.
Why Do People Choose to Return to Study?
If you've been out of school and in the workforce for a while, returning to your studies might seem a bit daunting. However, the benefits of mature age study far outweigh the initial difficulties you might experience getting back into a study routine.
After graduating, most students are eager to say goodbye to the classroom — however, many do end up returning, for various reasons.
You're bored at work
You would know what 'burnout' is — and this is certainly a valid reason for a career change — but have you heard of 'boreout'?
Feeling undervalued, underutilised or not having any room for professional growth in your career is the main cause of 'boredom burnout syndrome' and it's becoming increasingly common among Australian employees. Putting in an application for mature age entry into a short course or degree in order to gain new skills and change their career, is how many Australians are beating boreout.
You want higher duty or promotion opportunities
Whether you are keen to broaden your options at work or you are looking to improve your family's financial security, undertaking undergraduate study, a post-graduate degree or a vocational or professional training program may be one of the requirements to secure that promotion or move up the scale to higher duties.
You love learning
A desire to return to the classroom in the adult education environment does not necessarily have to be driven by career requirements — you may want to learn and gain new skills just for the fun of it. Perhaps you have a passion for learning languages or Australian history, or maybe there was a subject you couldn't fit into your study program when you were at school?
Whatever the reason, there are plenty of short courses or community classes you can apply for. Alternatively, you may really miss university life and want to return. The added advantage here is that anything you love learning can also breathe new life into your career.
You want that second chance
Not every student is fortunate enough to have full education options in their youth. This does not mean they cannot apply for entry into adult education courses to help them gain work skills or even get the ATAR they missed the first time around.
Going back to university to pursue an undergraduate or post-graduate degree, enrolling in an evening course or taking online courses are all options available for mature students in Australia.
What Requirements Do Mature Students Have to Meet?
If you've decided to take a break from work and return to the school environment, your next step will be to check the admission requirements relevant to the course or training you want to pursue.
Most Australian universities will require academic applicants to have an ATAR ranking and a Year 12 certificate as minimum entry requirements. However, many universities will also give credit for work experience, or any vocational education courses applicants have completed — so, there is no need to despair if you don't have an ATAR.
If you still don't meet the minimum requirements, have had a significant break from formal studies or are an international student, you may be eligible for one of the bridging course options. The most common bridging courses are for English and maths, however, some universities also offer bridges courses in other subject fields such as science. At the end of these courses, you will have met the requirements for entry into the degree of your choice.
Of course, there are other options for further study apart from traditional university education.
TAFE institutions offer a broad range of vocational and professional certificate and diploma level courses for people who do not want to pursue the more academic study pathways. There are no ATAR or Year 12 requirements for TAFE entry, however, a minimum level of English is a basic requirement. Again, bridging and support courses are widely available for English.
Online study options are also widely available. You can undertake academic studies, vocational courses, a short recreational course or a full university degree either online or in a hybrid arrangement which is part online and part in-person. Online courses provide the perfect options for mature age learning for students who may still be at work full time, as the tutorial and assessment requirements are flexible and self-paced.
How Much Does it Cost as a Mature-Age Student?
There are two things to weigh up when it comes to the cost of further education — the cost of your course or degree versus the 'cost' of lost income if you have to reduce your work hours to accommodate your studies.
How much can I expect to pay?
Unfortunately, we cannot answer this question here as the cost of any further learning varies greatly across Australia and depends on the actual course. Be prepared, however, to fork out for administrative fees, material fees and subject fees.
To help pay your fees, or supplement your cost of living while you are unable to work full time, there are a few support options you may be eligible to tap into while you complete your studies. Depending on whether you meet the requirements, these may include:
- HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP
- Youth Allowance.
Various scholarships and university bursaries as well as other student finance options may also be available. The Good Universities Guide is an excellent resource to find further information about government support and reliable comparisons between university courses for Australian students.
It's important to thoroughly investigate any financial support you may be entitled to as a mature age student and also consider the possibility you may need to continue to work part time to supplement any support you do receive.
Get more information about mature age student study and adult education here.
How Do I Choose the Right Adult Education Course for Me?
Pursuing higher education and further study is a huge commitment, both of time and money, so you want to be sure you are choosing the right courses or training — helping you move up in your career, or that open up new career options.
If you're looking to gain advanced skills in order to move up into promotion positions, your employer is the best person to ask when it comes to further study or training requirements.
However, if you are after a complete career change, you will need to do your research. A few avenues that may give you a better idea of whether this is the right path for you include:
- skills appraisal — will help you work out where you can best use your current skills
- former students — talk to past students who have either graduated or are completing the course you are interested in
- internships — the best way to gain experience and learn on the job is through an internship
- open days — universities and other higher education institutions and adult learning centres have regular open days throughout the year where prospective students can talk to teachers and current students
- industry employees — find people who are currently working in the sector you're interested in and ask them about the roles and requirements of the job
- compare course delivery methods — you may discover you are better suited to online learning than classroom-based sessions.
It's super important to ask lots of questions and to visit different education institutions. Remember — that certificate course or undergraduate bachelor degree might have the same title at different institutions, but the course content and the lecturers will not be the same. Do the legwork to find the one that is a good fit for you and your needs.
Finally, go into this fully armed with the information you need before you make your final choice. It's your future.
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