Studying For A Degree, With A Family

University challenge!
Unlike many, I didn't go to university after school. Armed with average grades, I concluded that I lacked brains.

Plenty of intelligent people drop-out of university, what chance would I have? Why demonstrate my stupidity on a grandiose scale? So I dismissed the pipe-dream and moved on. 

As it turned out, this was rubbish. I was stupid, but only for doubting myself. Learning is a long-game and nobody is defined by poor grades, or achievements in school. 

I recall one teacher describing me as a "constant daydreamer". That part was correct, I dreamt of not being in his class. Naturally I felt pigeon holed as a "non-academic".

As I progressed through my twenties and early thirties, I could not shake the feeling. I had "unfinished business" in academia and something to prove. So in 2014, I had a mad moment and enrolled for a degree programme.

Five years later, aged 38, I graduated with a BA (Hons) in Business & Management, at the University of Essex. It was a strange but fulfilling experience, to put this "academic" nonsense to bed. 

So in this post, I will share my story and demonstrate what is possible. If a busy, married father of two can graduate, so can you. Never feel too old or stupid to study, you can achieve more than you think. 

Why I Chose To Do A Degree

People typically study a degree to start or further a career. In my case, my career progression was going ok. Apart from proving a point to myself, I had numerous reasons.  

Firstly, having a degree opens certain career paths. I haven't rule out becoming a teacher or lecturer one day, and having a degree helps. With a degree, you can complete a short training course to attain qualified teacher status. There are many careers, where having a degree helps. It is also the progression to other post-graduate disciplines.

Secondly, I would like my own children to pursue university potentially. My own experience is a way of demonstrating to my children, what is possible if you apply yourself. It would be difficult to the sell the university benefits, having not attained a degree myself. 

Thirdly, my business degree introduced me to business models and strategies. It is possible that I may use this knowledge to start a business venture one day. Whatever subject you study, I think its important to ensure it adds value to your life, somewhere or at some point.  

Practical Benefits Of A Degree

Degrees require study, which enforces structure and routine. Everything in life works better with structure and routine. Doing a degree, means you plan and make time for learning. By planning your weeks in advance, you become more productive.

In addition, it teaches you to think critically. In other words, to analyse the benefits and limitations of a situation. With critical thinking you learn to use logic and make informed decisions. This is a valuable life skill to have, improving your decision making.
With critical thinking you learn to use logic and make informed decisions. 
When you write a piece of degree work, it requires you to research deeply. So you delve into a subject, to fully understand it and quote relevant sources. You synthesise ideas and viewpoints fully, broadening your thinking. These principles can be applied to every day life.

Juggling Studies With Family Life

Limit your social media use!
This was perhaps hardest the part of being a mature student. You must balance studies, alongside family obligations. It comes down to planning and knowing what you need to do.

A degree course is typically broken down into modules, with deadlines and submission dates. Know these dates and plan your life around it.

Try to eliminate all distractions and be disciplined with your studies. Limit time on social media, NetFlix and gaming consoles where possible. When you are studying, you must be fully in the zone and committed. Eliminate the distractions, because they become a hindrance.

Having said this, there are some wonderful Facebook and WhatsApp groups for students. Studying can be a lonely and isolating experience. Interact with other students if you get the chance. You can meet people in a similar boat and make new friends.

Be sure to use your downtime productively. Many universities utilise online platforms and teaching methods. Embrace what they offer, by listening to podcasts and streamed lectures on your commute. Read course material and ebooks before bed. Be sure to absorb information from all sources, if you are time poor. 

Final Thoughts

Studying a degree is hard, but not impossible. If you feel the urge to do it, then do it. It requires discipline and focus, but the task is not insurmountable. 

Think about your reasons for doing a degree and what you hope to gain from it? This is particularly useful when things get tough. Visualise yourself graduating, to stay motivated, when you feel up against it.

A degree is not easy, but with planning and focus, it is achievable. Should you get a degree? I will let you decide; but I hope you find value from my experience.

Comments

  1. The brilliant thing about this is that you studied for a degree as an adult. Could or would you have achieved this as an 18 year old? All too often people don’t do the Uni thing at 18 and assume they can never return whereas you have. Education is a lifelong venture, it shouldn’t be seen as something for the young which it presently is. Great post.

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