Written by Lauren Bishop
MSc Public Health
Feeling too old to have a career change or go back to studying is a common phenomenon, although the phrase ‘it’s never too late’ is also something we hear very frequently! It’s understandable that the thought of going back to uni after a long study-free period can evoke anxiety, but I think this way of doing things has some significant advantages. Here’s why:
- Knowing yourself. The years spent working after graduating give valuable insight into your chosen field, your preferred job type and style of working, and help you develop your interests and expertise. Developing in this way will often lead to feeling the need to study something more specialised, or perhaps completely different from your previous qualifications. In my case, I studied psychology at undergrad and have developed an interest in healthy lifestyles and population-level wellbeing, which has led me to my current studies in public health. Had I not had several years of working and honing my interests, I wouldn’t have ended up on this path which feels so right for me at the moment. In fact, not long ago I was convinced I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, which would have involved following a very different postgraduate study trajectory. It was simply the time and space to work out what I really wanted that nudged me in the right direction. In this sense, waiting a while to go back to uni has been very beneficial!
- A means to an end. Since our interests and ambitions are malleable, it’s possible to decide to have a career change at any age. With a career change often comes the need to retrain, so going back into education is simply a necessary part of the journey to a new career. Seeing it as a step towards an overarching goal may make the idea of going back to uni less daunting than focussing on the challenging aspects of it.
- Experience and skills. We all develop as people over the years, and with age often comes valuable skills for successful learning. Over time, most of us learn new ways of dealing with stress and strategies for maintaining our general wellbeing. We may also become better at time management, achieving a healthy work-life balance and managing competing demands. These are all important characteristics of a good student, yet many people are fearful of going back into education due to lack of confidence in their own abilities. In reality, life experience probably makes us better equipped to do well at uni as we get older. For instance, over the last year I’ve really gotten into mindfulness, which helps keep stress at bay and therefore I think I’m coping better with the intensity of studying for a Master’s than I would have done a few years ago.
- Personal fulfilment. Personally, I’m always striving to be challenged and feel a sense of discontentment when things are plain sailing. I also enjoy the process of learning and get a real sense of achievement when I’ve produced a piece of work that I’m pleased with (more so if I get a good grade!). Being a postgrad student gives me a sense of purpose and fulfilment that would otherwise be missing, and probably is missing for many people who are discouraged from going back to uni because of age. We should all be able to get maximum enjoyment out of life at any age, so getting back into education is something it’s never too late to do. If you want it, do it!
By Lauren Bishop