Last week I wrote about how old I sometimes feel being around all those young students. But being (or feeling) old isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it often offers a distinct advantage.
For a start, age means more life experience. I've done more than my fellow students, seen more, read more, talked to more people from a wider range of backgrounds - and all that adds up to knowing more about the world. Which, in the Arts at least, is a big advantage. I've been to other countries, worked in different industries, I've even been around for some of the stuff they've only heard about from their History papers. Experience is gold.
I also know a lot more about myself. Through long experience I've learnt how I learn best. I know which studying techniques work for me and which don't. I know what time of day I'm most productive, and when I'm better doing something non-academic. I know what proportion of study to relaxation prepares me best for an exam. And I know how much lead time to give myself for projects. Those are all things I certainly didn't have figured out at 18 (my grades from back then are evidence of that!). It's taken years of learning about myself and how I respond to many different working and learning environments to find out what makes my brain tick. So now I can make the best possible use of the time I've got available for study.
And talking of time available for study, I'm a lot more in control of my own time than I was at 18. The 40-something year old me doesn't have to go to parties just because all my friends are going - not only am I adult enough to know when study needs to take priority over fun, but my friends are adult enough to know why I'm making that choice. The 40-something year old me also doesn't feel the need to stay out all night drinking when I do go out (actually, I didn't do that when I was 18 either - I was much too boringly goody-good. But the peer pressure to do so was certainly there). Yes, I do have work to go to, and a mortgage to pay, but I've had a lot of practice at doing those things, so they're not a huge burden. And on the plus side, those things give me a comfortable home to live in, instead of freezing in a dingy student flat. Life is definitely easier now than it was back then.
And of course the other big advantage of being older is that I'm in the same age group as most of my lecturers. Which means I'm way less intimidated by them than I was at 18. So I'm much more comfortable about speaking up in class, about going to office hours to ask for help, and generally about making the most of my opportunities.
So, mature students, celebrate your age and the advantages it give you. You may never be 18 again, but really, who'd want to be?