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Going to university as a mature student

Going to university as a mature student

Old Feb 4th 2012, 3:08 pm
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Default Going to university as a mature student

I am 31 years old, a permanent resident in US and self-employed. Did not go into further education back in the UK as frankly I was a feckless waster at that age but as I get older it interests me more and would improve my employment prospects should that be necessary further down the line.

However, I know that any respectable university will require certain results at high school level for admission, and also I believe US universities also make you continue Maths, English etc at university even if you are studying something totally different (I am considering Philosophy (yeah yeah, I know) and/or Economics). All I have is A-Levels in Economics and Maths.

So my questions are, 1) Am I likely to get into any decent University or will I first have to do the equivalent of a high school graduation? Obviously that would be a lot of work, re-learning stuff from 15 years ago that I have since forgotten. And 2) are there any Unis that simply focus on the subject you wish to study rather than making you do Calculus/Shakespeare etc on top?

Please go easy on me as I'm sure there are many negatives but I'm new to all this stuff.
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Old Feb 4th 2012, 3:32 pm
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

As with most other things in the US it is very hard to generalize about universities and their requirements.

The extent to which you are expected and/or required to take a wide range of subjects is going to vary a lot depending on where you go.

Purely from a cost perspective you may want to explore starting out at a community college and transferring to a university later.

By the way, what is it that interests you in philosophy? It is, for most people, not a particularly easy subject and will involve a *lot* of reading and writing on your part.
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Old Feb 4th 2012, 3:51 pm
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

Thanks for the reply md. I guess for most people a lucrative career is the main aim but since I am currently fairly comfortable I thought I'd choose something I find personally interesting...have no interest in studying to be an accountant or anything like that.

What makes you say Philosophy is hard, out of interest? I know there are a lot of half-arsed degrees out there but would Philosophy even be considered tough compared to the other traditional subjects? A friend did Maths & Physics and told me I should definitely move a bit further down the Arts end of the spectrum
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Old Feb 4th 2012, 4:48 pm
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

1) I'm not sure about a decent university, but I know that many of the community colleges will have you take an entrance exam, if you have no previous college experience. IIRC, its called a COMPASS exam. This would measure you skills in various subject (math, english, etc) and tell the university where to place you. So if you did quite poorly in math, then they may have you start in a more remedial level of math (that wouldn't necessarily count towards your degree) to bring you up to par.

I'm not sure if other, larger universities offer the same thing. But it can't hurt you to ask. Pick a few uni's you would be interested in attending, and research their admissions requirements.

You will need the equivalent of a HS diploma. If its a larger uni, that is used to international students, they should be able to look at your secondary school matric certificate (or whatever you received once you finished school) and determine if its equivalent. You will likely need to dig up any records you have. There are also organizations who will do an evaluation for your. Take a look at WES.

2) All traditional uni's take this approach. You will forced to take arts & humanities/social-behavioral type classes to 'round out' your actual degree field. When I was studying engineering, I hated those classes. And I also thought they were a waste of time and tuition. I don't think there's much of a way to get around it. But since you want to study a subject that is considered to be in one of these fields already, you may enjoy them more than you think.

As far as philosophy being hard, I guess it depends on how you think. I would find it hard because I'm not a very subjective person. I'm a very quantitative person. The question I would ask you is this: what type of job do you want to have with a PHIL degree? Most people I know of with this degree wound up teaching, or working in a totally unrelated field. It's not a degree called for in the business world.
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Old Feb 4th 2012, 4:56 pm
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

Originally Posted by polar_bear View Post
What makes you say Philosophy is hard, out of interest?
I didn't say that it was hard, I said:

It is, for most people, not a particularly easy subject
It all depends how your mind works - my degree is in Philosophy and actually I did find it to be quite easy, but I also saw a lot of people struggle with it.
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Old Feb 4th 2012, 5:05 pm
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

Originally Posted by Bluegrass Lass View Post
As far as philosophy being hard, I guess it depends on how you think. I would find it hard because I'm not a very subjective person. I'm a very quantitative person.
In which case you might actually do very well at philosophy

The question I would ask you is this: what type of job do you want to have with a PHIL degree? Most people I know of with this degree wound up teaching, or working in a totally unrelated field. It's not a degree called for in the business world.
I used to tell people that a degree in philosophy qualified you for either teaching philosophy or unemployment - that is still essentially true, but once you get past the idea that a university degree has to be, in and of itself, a qualification that will get you a job you will find that a philosophy degree is probably just as useful as almost anything else outside of the science and engineering disciplines.
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Old Feb 4th 2012, 5:07 pm
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

You will probably want to talk to an admissions officer in person rather than go straight to any automated application process.
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Old Feb 4th 2012, 5:22 pm
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

You probably need to get a GED which is a test that can be taken for anyone over 18 who does not have a high school diploma which gives you a high school diploma equivalency. Many find it fairly easy with general knowledge questions and many times requires no studying. If you want to freshen up on your knowledge, there are many books available to refresh your mind that are geared to the GED.

Usually for all degrees, there are certain minimum requirements but depending on the degree, there are usually "bone head" classes when the course it not relevant to the degree. In other words, no one is going to expect you to take calculus if you are going to be a Philosophy major.

In California, evening classes at community colleges do not require a high school diploma or GED and you can choose any class that is desired that doesn't have a prerequisite class (example you can't choose Psych II if you haven't taken Psych I) and those classes will normally count as credits toward a degree. This may possibly be the best way to start to see if you want to invest your time and effort towards a full degree. In this way you can temporarily bypass other required classes towards the degree and only take the classes that you are interested in.

In California there are three college systems, community college, state colleges, and state universities. Anyone with a high school diploma or GED can attend community colleges or state colleges (may initially be on probation in state colleges if your high school grades were too low). Universities are much more difficult to get accepted with top schools such as Berkeley requiring a high school 4.0 GPA for some majors to even be eligible for consideration.

Don't put down state colleges since many have very good programs from colleges such as San Jose State, San Diego State, and Sacramento State.

Last edited by Michael; Feb 4th 2012 at 5:32 pm.
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Old Feb 4th 2012, 5:39 pm
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

Originally Posted by polar_bear View Post
Thanks for the reply md. I guess for most people a lucrative career is the main aim but since I am currently fairly comfortable I thought I'd choose something I find personally interesting...have no interest in studying to be an accountant or anything like that.

What makes you say Philosophy is hard, out of interest? I know there are a lot of half-arsed degrees out there but would Philosophy even be considered tough compared to the other traditional subjects? A friend did Maths & Physics and told me I should definitely move a bit further down the Arts end of the spectrum
My degree is in German but I took philosohphy as my subsidiary subject. I really enjoyed it, it's not really 'difficult' apart from Schopenhauer
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Old Feb 4th 2012, 5:42 pm
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

Originally Posted by polar_bear View Post
I am 31 years old, a permanent resident in US and self-employed. Did not go into further education back in the UK as frankly I was a feckless waster at that age but as I get older it interests me more and would improve my employment prospects should that be necessary further down the line.

However, I know that any respectable university will require certain results at high school level for admission, and also I believe US universities also make you continue Maths, English etc at university even if you are studying something totally different (I am considering Philosophy (yeah yeah, I know) and/or Economics). All I have is A-Levels in Economics and Maths.

So my questions are, 1) Am I likely to get into any decent University or will I first have to do the equivalent of a high school graduation? Obviously that would be a lot of work, re-learning stuff from 15 years ago that I have since forgotten. And 2) are there any Unis that simply focus on the subject you wish to study rather than making you do Calculus/Shakespeare etc on top?

Please go easy on me as I'm sure there are many negatives but I'm new to all this stuff.
Did you finish school and take GCSE's etc? If so that should be seen as the equivalent of graduating high school.

My advice would be start at community college and get the core classes out of the way and then transfer to a 4 year college. It will be fair cheaper and to some extent may even be more flexible. Community colleges are used to mature students and have classes during the day and evenings and some are even online.

When I started out my local community college accepted my exam certificate from school detailing my grades etc (I didn't stay on for A levels.) I then took a placement test which determined what level classes I needed to start out with. My math is weak, so I had to take a pre-college level math class but other than that I was able to start at college level classes. I took a variety of core classes at community college and am now studying via distance learning with the University of London's International programme.

Make an appointment with a counsellor at your local community college. He/she will be happy to take you through the process and will even advise you on what classes you will need to take etc. They are really helpful and you won't be the oldest in class. I'm 46 (blimey did I say that out loud ) and there were older people in class than me.

(Just to add, if you don't have your exam certificate from your UK school you can apply to the examination board which oversaw your exams for a copy. That's what I did)
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Old Feb 4th 2012, 5:54 pm
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

Originally Posted by Sue View Post
Did you finish school and take GCSE's etc? If so that should be seen as the equivalent of graduating high school.

My advice would be start at community college and get the core classes out of the way and then transfer to a 4 year college. It will be fair cheaper and to some extent may even be more flexible. Community colleges are used to mature students and have classes during the day and evenings and some are even online.

When I started out my local community college accepted my exam certificate from school detailing my grades etc (I didn't stay on for A levels.) I then took a placement test which determined what level classes I needed to start out with. My math is weak, so I had to take a pre-college level math class but other than that I was able to start at college level classes. I took a variety of core classes at community college and am now studying via distance learning with the University of London's International programme.

Make an appointment with a counsellor at your local community college. He/she will be happy to take you through the process and will even advise you on what classes you will need to take etc. They are really helpful and you won't be the oldest in class. I'm 46 (blimey did I say that out loud ) and there were older people in class than me.

(Just to add, if you don't have your exam certificate from your UK school you can apply to the examination board which oversaw your exams for a copy. That's what I did)
My ex did the same as you in her 40's but first she got her GED and eventually got a degree in foreign languages from the University of California at Davis. After that she then got her teaching credentials.
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Old Feb 4th 2012, 6:00 pm
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

Thanks Sue that's really helpful. Yes I do have GCSEs, 8 of them I think, in all the usual subjects. I don't have the certificates but my Mum's a hoarder so I would bet she has them stashed away in a box somewhere back home.

Definitely need to go in and speak to the College/Uni but this thread has been very informative, cheers everyone.
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Old Feb 22nd 2012, 12:00 am
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

I'm doing the same thing myself - going back to school to get a bachelor's degree simply because every job ad over here seems to require one. I believe that 5 GCSE's are the equivalent of a high school diploma here, so you will not have to get your GED.

Once you find a school or two that you are interested in talk to them and find out how they will evaluate your A-Levels as these will in fact give you some credit. One school I go to does international evaluations themselves, but the other I am registered with uses World Education Services (WES).

The reason I am registered at 2 universities over here is so that I can take regular classes locally, then I transfer those credits to an out of state school that applies those credits to my bachelor's degree. The out of state school also accepts CLEPS, DSST, ALEKS, etc. So I will be able to complete my degree quicker and for a lot less cost than just attending locally.

Good luck with whatever you decide!

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Old Feb 22nd 2012, 7:02 am
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

Originally Posted by polar_bear View Post
So my questions are, 1) Am I likely to get into any decent University or will I first have to do the equivalent of a high school graduation? Obviously that would be a lot of work, re-learning stuff from 15 years ago that I have since forgotten.
I can't imagine many good unis taking you in without having taken the SATs or ACT, tbh. As stated before, a community college may be the best thing in the long run, especially if you want to get a lot of the classes non-pertinent to your field of study out of the way so you can focus more intensely on them later. Plus its dirt cheap, and you can possibly be in and out of there in like a year and a half if you take summer classes, too.


And 2) are there any Unis that simply focus on the subject you wish to study rather than making you do Calculus/Shakespeare etc on top?
I can't think of any, but at the same time there might be some very interesting classes offered that fulfill these requirements all the same.
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Old Feb 22nd 2012, 12:47 pm
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Default Re: Going to university as a mature student

If you want a degree, you need to complete all subjects, i.e. English, History, Math, etc. It is call matriculating.

If you just want to study some pertinent classes, without obtaining a degree, then you can do just that. The cost is usually higher, I found, if you aren't matriculating.

I did not have to take a SAT test to get into a private college when I was 27.
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