Life as a mature student

Matt Worth 7 November 2013

What is life like for a mature student at Cambridge? The worst thing is the suspicion of porters. You’d better get used to hearing “can I help you?”  constantly. Several times on my way to another college’s bar, I’ve faced questioning that my 22-year-old comrades avoid. In  porters’ eyes, the chances of a 10pm interloper being a nefarious pervert, rather than a harmless chancer in search of a pint, increase exponetially with age. You’re also defined by your years. I’m often asked if I’m a Fellow. Take it as a compliment. An opportunity, even. Pretending to be a Professor of Ancient History for the evening can open up interesting social avenues.

We mature students are less likely to  tolerate patronising guff: we usually pay our own fees (we’re not unique in this, I recognise) and we like to think (often wrongly) that life experience has given us some judgment. Pet hate: being warned off from emailing academics about the content of their lectures. Note to all faculties: this is infuriating.

But it’s not all bad. Most importantly, little daunts the mature student. Take supervisions, often described as “scary” by one’s fellow-students. Being questioned on a topic you’re new to, by a world class expert, is certainly a serious prospect. But scary? It’s an opportunity. Same goes for the joys of romance. It’s nice not feeling under pressure (from yourself) to get lucky every time you go to Cindies. And yes, we do go to Cindies.

Being a mature student allows you to talk to anyone. When I was an undergraduate first time around, I found the impervious bluster of the mature student curious; they seemed protected by a force field against social anxiety, and safe in the knowledge that virtually nothing one does at university (or indeed at any other stage in life) actually matters at all.

And above all, doubling up student discounts with OAP discounts. On the train. At the football ground. At Cindies. Enough said.