Hi everyone, I’m Jess and I joined the University of Exeter in September 2018 at the ripe age of 21 (when a lot of students actually graduate). I am now in my final year studying Classical Studies and Philosophy and I’ll be graduating at 24!

Are you considering starting university and you’re over 21? Worried about how you will settle in? Then below you’ll find 5 answers to the questions you’ve been thinking of asking!


What is a mature student?

First and foremost, what counts as a mature student? If you are starting your studies over the age of 21 then congratulations, YOU ARE MATURE!


Studying later in life

After college, I did a year working and travelling and was accepted into the University of York where I studied English and Philosophy. Turned out, this was the wrong course for me – (don’t panic the world didn’t end or stop because of this). It’s common to think that choosing the wrong degree is an unrecoverable, cataclysmic error placing you on a path of no return. FALSE – I accepted and embraced the change and worked at a bank for a year and applied to Exeter. This experience (although unplanned) was advantageous, it helped me understand the freedom university offered and the standard expected when it came to work, living and studying in a new city. Finding balance is key.


Settling in

Well, I would love to say that I act ‘older and wiser’ in lectures and seminars and in everyday life, but this would be an unfortunate misrepresentation of the truth. I don’t necessarily feel much older than other students; everyone who I have become friends with is in my life because we have the same values, driven by the same goals and laugh constantly! However, this might not be the case for everyone as it is totally dependent on the individual and your past experiences. I never felt a difference in ability because of my age, if anything there were people far younger than me who were able to engage with the material more efficiently and creatively. Don’t forget, everyone develops and grows at different rates during the process of your course.



My family have always been extremely supportive. Though for me, starting at 21 is not that much older than other students. Gap years (before covid-19) are quite the norm! Regarding working life, I have been employed throughout my entire degree, not only for finance purposes but for myself – I love working and being busy and there have been some fantastic opportunities offered through the Career Zone at Exeter for part time jobs and internships which also help you branch out with various year groups and ages as well as gaining fantastic work experience. There will always be questions like aren’t you too old to come to university and people are quick to judge and doubt – however the time pressure of starting a career you soon realise is totally in your hands. The average person changes careers 5-7 time during their working life! So what’s the rush? You’re in competition with yourself, not others.


Thinking of becoming a mature student – some final words of wisdom

Absolutely do it, don’t let your age stop you from furthering your future ambitions and passions. With every decision in life there is an element of fear of the unknown and you do not have to be resigned to your original ‘life plan’. But rest assured, if you immerse yourself in societies, your subject and your peers you will flourish like I did. If anything, coming to university with a little bit of extra life experience made building relationships easier and networking a lot less daunting. BUT and here is the big but, extra life experience is both your friend and your enemy. Your experiences can create certain blocks that can entrench your thinking and attitude and I have been susceptible to an age complex.


👉Never judge someone because of their age and that works on both sides.

👉Finding common ground with others at university is the best bonding tool.

👉Have an open mind, stop comparing and start observing.

👉Join the mature student society – this will make it easier to meet older students!


As a Unibuddy ambassador, I am used to answering prospective student’s questions about absolutely everything! If you are looking for some additional guidance and support, take a look at the Mature Student website: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/students/wp-support/supportfor/maturestudents/


Adjusting to a new setting takes time, so don’t forget to take a breath and not be too hard on yourself 🗣️