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Fitting it all in: it can be done!

Hear from one of the University of York's Health Science students who talks about fitting studies into a full time job, work placement and family life
My programme is very intense, and I am not going to lie, it is very difficult finding that work life balance. Two years in and I am still not getting it right but it is definitely a work in progress. We have twelve-week study and placement blocks with essays to write and whilst on placement block, attend university one day a week. Being a mature student and having my own house and bills to continue to pay, I also need to work. I honestly don’t know how I manage to fit it all in… but I do. I would say I am super organised, and I feel you need to be as a mature student.
If you want the full university experience there are lots of opportunities to socialise - personally I still have my friends who have been supportive throughout and I socialise as much as I can with them. University can, and does, make you value true friends - some don’t like you evolving and bettering yourself and I speak from experience, I have lost friends because of this. Reflecting though, I don’t need friends that aren’t happy to walk my journey with me. It can be stressful at times and you need that support network. I work full time, in paid employment, and work this around my study and placement.
I am really lucky that I have an employer who is very flexible with my work schedule and I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I do without that flexibility. It can be very overwhelming with essays, lectures, seminars, private study, work and having a life, I feel that preparation is essential. Personally, I have my own plan and schedule for everything and would recommend this to everyone. I am not one of those people that can leave things to the last minute, I admire those that can. So, my advice, it is totally achievable with some forward planning and dedication.

‘Normally I miss deadlines like a stormtrooper misses Jedi,’ Patrick Rothfuss, Unfettered.

Even when we think our lives are already busy, we can usually fit new and additional things in, particularly if we have an ambition or motivation and can visualise an outcome to all the extra work and commitment involved.

Knowles (1970) reported that:

Adults are life-centered (task-centered, problem-centered) in their orientation to learning. They want to learn what will help them perform tasks or deal with problems they confront in everyday situations and those presented in the context of application to real-life.

When making a potentially life-changing decision to return to study, we need to work out what our priorities are, what are essential things like keeping a roof over our heads, and having enough money to pay bills and buy food, or the time and cost involved in commuting.

We also need to make the harder decisions about the ‘nice to haves’; seeing friends may not be as often as it used to be; dropping time consuming hobbies, but keeping those that bring a sense of well-being such as gardening or volunteering, or making time for those key friends and family members that keep us on track.

You may even be able to link your interests into your studies. We have students who are keen volunteers, so they have volunteered to become a ‘buddy’ to new students at university.

There is lots of information out there to help us get organised in preparation for study, which then helps other aspects of our lives. Check out the link to Dr Stella Cottrell’s guide to self-management from one of her many study skills books, The Study Skills Handbook.

Remember, although learning can be lifelong, the type and length of course you choose, will have an influence on how much you have to adjust your current lifestyle.

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Returning to Education as a Mature Student

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