Here’s the thing: I’m really nervous about coming to campus, and it’s not because of COVID-19, or because I’ve never been there before and I’m afraid I’ll get lost (although, I am somewhat worried about the latter). I’m nervous because I’ll be 28 when I get there. And while I’m aware that’s not a dramatic age difference between myself and the majority of my peers, I still sweat a little at the thought of being almost 30 in a room where most people probably just broke 20.
I’m afraid I’ll be left out like a ton of other mature students I’ve seen throughout my years at school. The first time I tried this whole university thing was in 2012 — almost an entire decade ago. And as that sinks in a little bit more, my throat closes a little more.
I think back at some of my past university classes and remember those few older students, always situated in the back corner, alone, and my peers whispering to one another about the possible reasons they have to be here.
“What did they do so wrong in their lives to wind up here so late?” is usually the first question that comes to your mind or to the person next to you.
Most of the time, however, this isn’t the case. Usually it’s someone deepening a well of assets they already have, or making a career change once financially or personally able to do so.
Rarely is it for those reasons that seem most undesirable, like dropping out of a series of other programs in university and college, or for just working and settling and becoming complacent at a dead-end job and realizing upon that job’s bankruptcy you’ve aimlessly sunk a good chunk of your 20s into it for no reason at all, doing nothing.
I unfortunately fall under this group, and I fear it reads on my face.
But the thing is, I have gained a ton of interesting experiences and a ton of knowledge — albeit some useful and some useless. And while I have returned to the original university majors I first left, I have completed a year in culinary school, managed a children’s facility, earned a certificate in media, and written for an online cinematic magazine, to name a few things. A weird mix, to be sure, but a catalogue of different experiences that have served me well and got me back here.
While I’m not one of the students that is here late because I got to go on a global-find-yourself trek, I’m here because I failed. A few times, at a few different things. And I learned that that’s okay. While I had to work twice as hard to get back here, failing is actually the only reason I’m succeeding now.
So don’t leave out the mature students in your class — we are interesting people with a wealth of experiences and knowledge, no matter where each of us are in our academic journeys.
The best part about mature students, too, is that we are all intensely aware of one fact: sometimes life just happens. Sometimes in life, for any number of reasons, you just aren’t where you planned to be — and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you are. It’s just as much about finding out what you don’t like as much as it is about finding out what you do like.
So, come talk to us, cause we’re super non-judgemental and we’re not like regular students — we’re cool students. (Gee, I really hope people still like Mean Girls).