Applying for University as a Mature Student (A Survival Guide)


Being a mature student at university is a rewarding and career-changing experience. Here’s how to make the most of it! 

Are you a mature student trying navigate university life? Or perhaps you’re interested in returning to your studies and applying for a course? At the University of Bolton, we endeavour to be one of the best universities for mature students, and our campus is inclusive of everyone. So no matter your age, abilities or background, we’ll welcome you with open arms and give you the support you need to reach your potential.

Here’s everything you need to know about applying for university as a mature student, what to expect when you’re here, and how to make your university experience as amazing as can be!

Applying for university as a mature student

Before applying for university as a mature student, the first thing to consider is your personal finances, and whether you can afford to pay for the course. While some professional development degrees are supported and funded by employers, others will need to be paid for by the student.

Student finance for mature students is available, and the amount you can get depends on your family situation and the type of course you want to do. According to the website, those with children and dependents may be able to get extra help.

Entry requirements for mature students
Another thing to check is entry requirements at different universities. While some programmes accept relevant work experience in lieu of qualifications, others may be more specific about what they require. These prerequisites could include:

·         A Levels

·         Completion of an Access to Higher Education course first

·         NVQs, BTEC and other work-based qualifications

Choosing the right university for you

If you’re ready to apply, make sure you check whether your chosen university is a good mature student university. In our book, this means having plenty of facilities and resources to make your time there as memorable as possible, as well as having a friendly and supportive campus that ensures you are nurtured and supported during your studies.

For students looking to fund their studies with a part-time job, it also helps to choose a university in a good location. The University of Bolton is close to the thriving town centre, and is also just 15 minutes from the vibrant city of Manchester! Not only are we a great mature student university because of work opportunities, but we are in the heart of top entertainment and culture in the North West region.

Returning to education: how to prepare

Going back into the world of education can be challenging if you’ve been in a professional or corporate environment. In some ways, the longer you’ve been in industry, the harder it can be to adjust. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be seamless and successful in your transition. The key is to have the right mindset, and to be open to doing things in a completely different way.

If you’ve already been honing your practice for a number of years, it can be easy to get stuck in the same routine, the same format, and the same way of thinking. Attend your course with an open mind, and be ready to do the following things:

1) Learn from failures
Further education can often involve a lot of soul searching. Your training will help you with both personal and professional development, so you have to be able to recognise your areas of weakness.

2) Start early
Prior to your course, swot up on the topics that are relevant to your subject. By doing this, you can be prepared, and you’ll also retrain your brain for re-entering education. Keep an eye out for any communications before you start too, as course leaders may be in touch with some reading material or some book recommendations, or just to touch base.

3) Use experience to your advantage
Long-time graduates, working professionals and older students have one thing that many new students don’t have, and that’s life experience. Use that to your advantage and apply what you’ve learned in real life to your training. You never know how it may come in handy.

4) Sort accommodation/travel
Don’t leave this until the very last minute. Try to get your accommodation or travel plans organised as early as possible. This will give you more time to deal with other things before the course begins.


Meeting new people and making friends

One of the things that can cause anxiety when applying for university as a mature student is the prospect of meeting other students. If your course has other students like you, it’s probably less stressful going into that environment. But if you’re the only mature applicant in your group, you may feel a bit outnumbered.

But we assure you that it’s never as scary as it seems! At the University of Bolton, people of all ages and backgrounds are welcome. We are one of the most inclusive universities in the UK, and diversity of every kind is celebrated here.

Some tips for making friends as a mature student:

·         Be open and friendly with everyone (and never assume that a younger persons is going to be more difficult to connect with)

·         Don’t shy away from invites to lunch or social events

·         Find common ground with others (you never know what other people’s life experiences are, no matter their age)

·         Get involved on campus (there are many clubs and societies at the University of Bolton)

Building a healthy routine and life balance

As a student returning to education, it’s likely that you have a number of responsibilities. Juggling these won’t always be easy when you have coursework or revision to do. Many older students are parents, or are holding down a job in order to fund their studies. Or perhaps you’re doing a part-time master’s while staying in your current role.

If you want to make sure you have a good work/study/life balance, do not overlook the importance of building a routine. You will also need to be on top of your class schedule.

Use a planner to block out time for all of the important things in your life, and don’t forget that socialising, spending time with family and keeping fits all matter too. Physical activity will keep your body and mind healthy, and should never be overlooked.

Schedule in regular breaks
Burning the candle at both ends may seem like the only option, but if you don’t take regular breaks, your brain may not be functioning at full capacity. So try to give yourself some time to wind down between workloads.

And as we’ve just mentioned the importance of exercise, a good way to kill two birds with one stone is to go for a run, or a walk. Just 15 minutes of exercise a day could boost life expectancy by three years and cut death risk by 14%, according to a study.

Feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities?

There may be times that you will feel snowed under with work, and it can be hard to balance things. If you’re struggling to fit everything in, a priority matrix could be a handy tool. Something like the Eisenhower Decision Matrix could help you prioritise tasks more effectively.

To make your learning go further, you should also follow the two hour rule: for every hour spent in class, you should follow with two hours of your own study time.

Making the most of university resources

Don’t forget that your mental health and wellbeing matter when you’re at university. Just because you’re made of tougher stuff these days and you’ve been out in the professional world before, doesn’t mean you don’t need some level of assistance.

The University of Bolton’s award-winning Student Services Team is on hand to help, and will be available throughout the duration of your studies. They support you in everything from accommodation and budgeting to advice on grants and student finance for mature students. We also have a Mental Health Advisor service, so if you’re ever struggling to cope, our team is here to listen and refer you to the right resources or solutions.

This is what makes us one of the best universities for mature students, as well as first time students or international students who are far away from home. We’re proud to deliver #UniAsItShouldBe, creating a friendly and supportive learning environment for all.

As a leading Greater Manchester university that’s located just 15 minutes from the vibrant and dynamic city of Manchester, there’s nowhere better to study a master’s or professional development course.

We have a wide range of courses to choose from, and our courses are known for their small class sizes, meaning you’ll get the attention and support you need from course lecturers.

To find out more about applying in 2022, see our available courses.


No courses found

Related articles


Download the app for your smartphone from:

Help Centre

We have the answers to your questions, find all the advice and support in one place.

Part of the University of Bolton Group

Bolton college
Alliance learning
Anderton centre2
QQA Scheme Participant

Help Centre

We have the answers to your questions, find all the advice and support in one place.

Part of the University of Bolton Group

Bolton college
Alliance learning
Anderton centre2
QQA Scheme Participant