Going back to uni after an extended break can be an intimidating prospect. But, the stereotype of all students as bright-eyed eighteen-year-olds fresh out of high school is outdated. While it's true that a large number of students (670,000) in Australia are in the 18–22 years age bracket, the latest available figures from 2015 show that there were over 270,000 students aged 30–49.
This means that thousands of Australians know the mixed feelings associated with returning to uni but also ultimately feel the rewards of finishing a degree they really want. Some study on campus, others study online; whichever you prefer, here are five hacks to help get you back into the rhythm of uni life.
START WITH THE SUBJECTS THAT INTRIGUE YOU MOST
Make it fun. If you know what degree you want to do, but are worried about finding that initial drive to kickstart that self-motivated study mindset, start off with the subjects that seem the most engaging to get back in the swing of things.
Alternatively, if you're not set on doing a whole degree, you can take a single subject with no entry requirements. Seriously. Try studying in a particular area and see if online study suits you, or upskill in a specific career-related subject or two. Head to the single subjects and degrees page at Open Universities Australia and start perusing.
CHOOSE A DEGREE YOU'RE REALLY PASSIONATE ABOUT
The number one way to make uni work for you is to pick a course that excites you. So select something you like regardless of whether or not it's in fashion or earns you status points from your extended family.
Maybe the first time you went to uni, you picked law or commerce because it sounded 'good'. Or dentistry, because that's what your parents did and you frankly didn't have a clue what to do straight out of school. Fair — but this time around, find something that fits more with your true passions. Because, at the end of the day, it's you doing the degree, not anyone else.
GO PART-TIME AND STUDY ONLINE
Going back to uni doesn't have to mean fully adopting the classic student identity of all study, endless caffeine and extreme budgeting. If you love your current job and want to keep one toe in the workforce, but also want to finish a degree, why not have the best of both worlds? Instead of going back to full-time student status, opt for part-time and study online. Take your degree at your own pace outside work hours, and enjoy a bit more flexibility when it comes to studying and completing assignments. Plus, you'll get the exact same degree that you'd get on campus.
IDENTIFY ANY CREDITS THAT COULD CARRY INTO YOUR NEW DEGREE
If you've started a course in the past, but didn't end up finishing for whatever reason, all is not lost. You may very well be able to count some of your previous study towards completing your new choice.
If a previous course is related to your chosen degree, you can potentially use these as credits to reduce the number of subjects you will need to complete. And even if you don't have any previous study that relates to your new degree, you may be able to use those credits toward elective and non-core subjects. Being able to use previous credits will help you finish your studies faster. You can identify any potential credits you may already have here.
CONNECT WITH OTHER STUDENTS IN THE SAME SITUATION AS YOU
Solidarity is crucial for getting through any experience. University is meant to be challenging — that's where the growth is — but not to the point of feeling so tough you can't get through it.
Connecting with other students via Facebook groups and IRL is key to building a support system. Even if your squad is just you and one other person to talk over assignments with, having that help can change the game. There are so many other people also feeling that mixture of excitement and trepidation about going back to uni — you're not alone!
Take the plunge and explore all the degrees on offer from leading Australian unis, online through Open Universities Australia. You've got this.