If you decide to study at an age when you have more financial responsability full time education may not be an option. Mature student talks about the work - study - life balance
"Everyone assumes that you should know what you want to be when you grow up. I didn't. Living in east London I was fascinated by how dereliction could be made the most sought-after acquisition having witnessed the redevelopment of Docklands. I also grew up in the eighties, an era of heightened awareness of social justice. I knew what I was interested in but for a time I couldn't visualise a job following my interests.
I joined the Civil Service in 1999 but always wanted to go back and do a degree. I don't think I lacked direction; I just waited until I was ready to study. I did a MSc in Public Policy and Management because I had a genuine interest in it, aside from my job. Ironically, I also realised that I wanted a change of career and my interest in property came back onto the agenda.
My reason for doing a BSc in Urban Estate Management is to pursue a different career path after the civil service. I have always been passionate about social policy and property. I've done one; now I want to do the other.
This is my second degree so I have acclimatised to having to balance work and studying. Previously I worked full-time and attended lectures in the evening after work; whereas now I attend lectures over two days and work the remaining days. It is only hard if you are not good at managing your time or you lack motivation. I have to multi-task and I love what I'm studying which maintains my willpower to come to a lecture having spent an entire day at work.
So far my employers and the course administrator have been quite understanding about my shifting timetable and work priorities. It becomes difficult when the modules involve group work but so far I have either had accommodating groups or worked with people that have similar outside responsibilities.
Attending lectures isn't time-consuming but the independent study is. I have to amalgamate many things into one otherwise I would have no life outside of studying and working. I cycle to work which kills three birds with one stone (the gym, travel and saving money). I always have a book in my bag to read while eating my lunch, shop during my lunch break, have group get-togethers to catch up with friends and do the housework while chatting on my hands-free.
I could never have done the degree if it wasn't offered part-time. It was a simple question of financial means - I have a mortgage and bills to pay. I planned and saved my return to studying. There is mean-tested funding available which covers about half of the cost. As a part-timer I do six, as opposed to eight, modules per year making my course four years instead of three. I think doing the extra year is worth the sacrifice now, rather than paying back the expense later."
Natalie Proctor is a part time, mature student studying for a BSc in Urban Estate Management at Westminster University's School of Architecture and the Built Environment (SABE). When not in University she works for the Department for Communities and Local Government: