Eye Opener

The more I understand about Uni life as a mature student, the more I realise I had my head so far up in the clouds it was practically in orbit when I quit my job and applied for academia.  Okay, I guess I knew that anyway, but recent events have emphasised this.

Just to be clear, by 'mature student', I don't mean those of you who hit twenty and now think you're a responsible adult (believe me, you have far more to learn than you realise), I'm talking about those of us that have spent a number of years working our backsides off and who have qualifications so out of date that entry to university means you fill a quota for a minority group.

When I first applied to university, I was amazed at how easily I got in as I thought it would be a whole lot harder, but then little things started to happen that made me realise the only reason I succeeded was because I fill a required quota for mature student representation.  The first of these, and the reason for this frustrated posting, surrounds scholarships.

Leaving work with quite a bit in savings meant that I could support myself through at least the first year of university and also pay for my own tuition fees for that year.  This seemed to me to be a sensible thing to do in order to reduce the potential debts that would be built up.  As I made friends with people, I began to learn that everyone on my particular degree had a scholarship payment made to them.  Except me.

At first, the impression was that the scholarship everyone else was getting was linked to the student loan application, but I have since discovered that this is not the case.  The constraint on eligibility is the same constraint I have found put in place by the larger organisations that want to exclude older applicants when applying for industrial placements: UCAS points.

As a mature student with qualifications so old they've dropped off the bottom of the UCAS points qualifications list (we're talking O Levels and old-style B/TEC qualifications here), I didn't have enough points to get into university on points alone, so I needed something else that went in my favour: excessive birthdays.

When I discovered this, I naturally had a hunt around for other scholarships, such as the National Scholarship Programme (wrong postal area), the Academic Excellence Scholarship (no recent A* A-Levels or DDD BTEC qualifications), and the High Achievers Scholarship (no recent A* A-Levels and less than 450 UCAS Points - apparently it's not enough to be achieving amongst the highest grades on the degree itself).

So, the reality of the situation is this.  To get the core scholarship available for your course, you have to be young and reasonably fresh out of school/college.  If you do not fall into this category and you want the financial support offered by the scholarships, take a look at the UCAS tariff list and go get some A Levels first, at the very least.

As frustrating as the apparent ageism is, I'm glad I came to university as I am enjoying every minute, despite how intense it is proving to be.  So, if you are up for the challenge as a mature student, I wholeheartedly recommend it.  Make a change.  Get out of your rut.  Find something you have a passion for.

However, if you do decide to go down this route, just know one thing:

You are absolutely on your own.


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