Adult Students

advices for mature students

Information, advice and guidance for those returning to education as an adult.

This is for anyone who’s currently working, on parental leave or not in work.

Here we'll give you lots of information to help you with navigating the application process, preparing for uni or degree level study and adjusting back to education after a break.

If you’re a mature student currently in college you may find our advice for College Students more useful. 

On this page you'll find:

  • How to prepare to start degree level study later in life
  • How to prepare for a uni interview
  • How to apply as a mature student
  • What to ask at an adult open event

How to prepare to start degree level study later in life 

The best time to get a head start on your university course is before you start, it might even be something you think about alongside your application. Use any meetings you have with your university staff to chat through expectations so you can get an idea of what you might need to work on a prepare for.  

Here are four simple ways to give yourself the best chance of starting your course on the front foot. 

1. Speak to your tutors 

If you meet your tutors at Open Days, ask for their contact details. If not, get in touch on platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn – they won’t mind! Ask them what you can do to best prepare for the start of the course, it’s an easy way to make a great first impression! 

They may recommend a book, tell you about the early assignments or send you online resources. Some courses even offer a pre-course module, designed at giving you a head start. 

2. Review your reading list 

Most universities have their course reading lists online, or they might even e-mail them to you. You won’t be expected to read every page in every book listed, but it’s useful to spend some spare time in the summer flicking through the core texts. 

This will help familiarise yourself with the key themes and ideas you’ll be learning about in your first year and beyond. It also means you won’t be left short when the university library runs out of copies! 

Make sure to check places like eBay, Amazon and Facebook Marketplace, where graduating students sell their used textbooks on the cheap. 

3. Work on your study skills 

Prepare yourself for the next level with UCEN Manchester’s series of informative study skill sessions, which help you prepare for and engage with university-level study. Sessions are self-directed and delivered via video so you can take them at your own pace and come with a series of worksheets to help you apply what you’ve learned. 

Recommended sessions over the summer include goal setting and critical thinking, but you can access the entire collection of study skill sessions with our on demand session. 

4. Build your work experience 

Any time spent on an appropriate work placement will impress your tutors, look great on your CV and helps boost your future employment prospects. Contact as many relevant businesses as possible via letter or e-mail to enquire if they’re taking on any work experience. has some useful tips and a letter template here. 

Work experience is a mandatory requirement for a lot of courses, so even if opportunities are limited this summer, it’s never too early to start making connections and getting your name out there. 

5. Visit a Support Event

We offer a range of support events designed to help you better understand the process of all things university; including, Student Finance applications, DSA, and what you need to know about returning to study later in life. 

Search support events

Hear from Lisa about her reasons for, and experience of, returning to education later in life. 

Lisa is currently studying towards a BSc(Hons) in Applied Sport and Exercise Science with us. 

Chat to a student

How to prepare for a uni interview

University interviews can be a daunting prospect but they are nothing to be worried about. Whether they take place face-to-face or virtually this year, follow these three simple steps and you’re sure to make a good impression, while also finding out if the course is right for you! 

How to apply as an adult student

You can start your application on UCAS apply – you will need to register and create a user account. This means you can complete your application at your own speed and track your application after you have submitted it. 

Remember, you can only submit one UCAS application per cycle, so all the courses you want to apply for have to be on the same application. There are some helpful resources on the UCAS website if you encounter any problems. 

If you are applying to UCEN Manchester, you will need our institution code ‘M10’ for when you complete your UCAS application 

You’ll need to apply via UCAS as an independent applicant and write a personal statement, between 150 and 550 words. This is your opportunity to tell us about any additional skills or experience you may have, as well as why you want to study your chosen course. You can include examples of voluntary or work experience, as well as career aspirations and personal qualities that will assist you in your studies. 

Remember you can only submit one UCAS application per cycle. All the courses you want to apply for need to be on the same application. You can change or add to these through UCAS Extra or Clearing.

You’ll also need to provide details of a referee who can attest to your suitability to study at higher education level. 

Explore degrees by school

What to ask at an adult open event

Starting a degree isn't just about choosing the right course, it may mean moving to a new city or adapting back to study after a break from formal education.  

Here’s our support guide of what to ask. 

Upcoming Open Days

Find out about our latest events.

  • Can I gain entry based on my industry experience? 

  • How many hours/days will I be in? 

  • What are the student to teacher ratios like? 

  • Can I study part-time? 

  • What if my circumstances change and I can’t keep going next year? 

  • Will I be able to complete a placement or gain any industry experience? 

  • Do other students work as well as study? 

  • Will my employer see the benefits of me studying? 

  • I’ve not studied in a while, will anyone help me with the transition? 

  • Have you taught students like me before? 

  • Is there mental health support available? 

  • Are there any bursaries I can access if things get a bit tough financially? 

  • Can I complete some of the course virtually for flexibility? 

  • What practicals will I be doing to get me ready for industry? 

  • How do you work with industry? 

  • Do tutors have links with people in industry to help us network? 

Got a Question?

Our teams are here to help, whatever your query.