A post by our Project Assistant Marie who started a full-time college course on her 36th birthday.
You might be the oldest person there…but it’s ok!
My main concern about returning to college was age. I worried about feeling isolated and sticking out like a sore thumb. As I’m studying in the creative arts I also worried people might think I was having some kind of mid-life crisis!
Of course, there is no doubt that most of the other students are school leavers. But nowadays there are many mature students at college and universities and it’s not as big a deal as you might think. I was relieved to find there were two other older students in my class and we have been a great support to each other.
However, I’ve discovered what a joy it is to be to be part of a mixed age grouping – when you have a common interest age really tends not to matter. Spending a lot of time with younger people has allowed me to gain new perspective on things and helps me keep an open mind.
Money can be a barrier…but there is more support and options available than you think
Through my own experience and talking with other students, I am very encouraged by the amount of financial support which is available to students in Scotland.
If you have never undertaken a further or higher education course, it is highly possible you will be eligible to have your fees covered. In most cases, college or university students are entitled to a low interest student loan, which is only paid back when you are earning over a certain amount.
Depending on your circumstances, many institutions also have childcare bursaries available and specialist funding for students with disabilities.
Something that has been a benefit for me is that, in terms of further/higher education, full-time study equates to 16 hours, meaning I’ve been able to combine my course with part-time employment.
This comprehensive guide from Student Awards Agency Scotland is a great place to find out more. Or why not contact the college or uni you are hoping to apply to and find out what they have to offer?
Your own fears are the biggest barrier to overcome
I’ve known for a long time how much I love creating and performing music, yet I spent 15+ years talking myself out of pursuing it. My main fears were ultimately about what other people thought – that I was being frivolous or self-indulgent, that working in the creative industries isn’t a ‘real’ job. I’ve actually found that most family and friends have been hugely supportive and even excited that I am following my ambitions. There are always going to be people who don’t understand or respond with negativity. But you are not obliged to justify your choices to anyone – what you do with your own potential is your business.
I was also worried that I just wasn’t good enough. However, if I was already the best, then I would have nothing to learn! Through practice, study, tuition and expert feedback I’ve made steady improvements. Self-doubt is natural but it can be limiting, even debilitating. So try to focus on wanting to get better, rather than worrying about not being good enough.
Keep your eye on the bigger picture
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes I have days where I wonder what on earth I’m doing, crave the security of my former career, or just feel absolutely ancient compared to my classmates.
I find that when things get tough it’s helpful to think about the life benefits which your skills and qualifications might bring in the long term. Feelings of purpose and fulfilment? Something which works well around family life? Turning a hobby into a business? Opportunities to travel? Personal growth? Everyone’s motivations are different and each unique path is valid.
Life is short and you deserve to be happy. Take it from me, you have everything to gain by hitting send on that application!