If you’re returning to university, you may have a few worries. Like can your brain still study? Will you overcome exam PTSD? Will the smell of chalk give you hay fever?
But time, experience and neuroplasticity are on your side. As scientists and postgrad students have shown, not only are you capable of studying but you’ve already been training your brain. Plus, the blackboards are digital now so fear not.
Life has made your brain match fit
If you’ve spent time in the workforce, this is a real asset. You’ve been practicing invaluable skills, like problem solving, information synthesis and decision making.
Swinburne researcher Dr Jeff Waters did a PhD on the university experience of mature age students. He found that, ‘prior life experiences and life skills were a real benefit – though the mature age students often didn’t recognise that.’
‘You might have good economic skills that can transfer over. Being able to separate work and home is also a real skill.’ Plus, the ability to link what you study directly to your life experiences will make it easier to memorise and empathise with the course content.
Swinburne student Sue returned to university to complete a Diploma of Marketing and Management.
‘As we are all older and working, we bring varied experiences to the table. And that really enhances the course,’ Sue said.
That school nits outbreak trained you
to cope in a crisis
If you’re a parent, you’ve already been sharpening your multi-tasking, time management and crisis response skills.
Just think of the way you’ve survived toddler tantrums.
Nicole is a working mum who recently returned to study, and sees the skills she’s acquired while parenting as a positive. ‘When you become a parent, you go in completely blind … so you’re learning on the go. You have to be willing to grow, be challenged and learn new tools.’
‘Kids are constantly changing, so you’re forever adapting and finding new solutions. In many ways, I feel that this primes your brain for study – it’s already comfortable with novelty and problem solving.’
If you’re considering a return to study after raising children: you’re already switched-on, efficient and you should really consider a master’s in project management.
You’ve left impulsive hair decisions in the past
Did you know the prefrontal cortex—responsible for impulse regulation and planning—doesn’t fully develop until age 25? This may explain the questionable choices of youth (like dodgy hair dye, cargo pants or spending your last $50 on concerts).
But for those considering a return to study as a mature age student, this only means good things. With a fully developed brain, you’re more likely to think through your decisions and plan to reach your goals – the perfect set-up for academic success.
Swinburne student Bruce began his studies after an already-rich career. He found his maturity was valued in the classroom. ‘I was treated as an adult and someone who is knowledgeable in both life and work experience,’ said Bruce.
Your brain can stretch (without snapping)
We once believed the human brain stopped developing after childhood, but new research proves the brain continues to adapt throughout adulthood. In a process called neuroplasticity, the brain rewires itself and creates new connections in response to experiences.
In Dr Norman Doidge’s, The Brain that Changes Itself, we see neuroplasticity in action – with miraculous case studies, such as stroke patients relearning to walk and aging brains becoming rejuvenated. Proving there’s no age limit on learning. In fact, learning only improves your brain’s capabilities.
As Doidge states in his book, ‘in order to keep the brain fit, we must learn something new, rather than simply replaying already-mastered skills.’
So put your brain to the test—we promise it won’t break—and you’ll be better for it.