Ah would ye look! It's the......
Going to college as a mature student can be a bit daunting, with lots of unknowns to face. Would I be able for it? Would they be able for me? Will there be lots of grey haired professors floating around the place in big black cloaks and funny headgear?
I knew I was onto a good start when, on the first night, I at least managed to find the place and there was a friendly face in the reception area with a student card for me. (I wonder can I get student discounts with this card?). I was directed to our lecture theatre on the 3rd floor and when I walked in to the room it was half full with about 15 other nervous and very quiet people wondering what they had let themselves in for. Numbers grew to about 30 before the show started. By the way, that 15 minutes or so before “lectures” started was the only time this group has been quiet and reserved since!
That first night we had a series of 10 minute “chats” from various college bodies like the student’s union, library, IT department, student support services etc. to let us know about all of the support services that are available to make our time in college a success. Good stuff to know and very reassuring and helpful.
The info presentations were followed by an introduction from our course director, who outlined the academic side of things for us, what we would be covering, how we would be working and how our efforts would be judged during our time in college.
Following that, the piece that I think everybody dreads, “introduce yourself to the person beside you and in 10 minutes, be prepared to introduce your neighbor to the group”.
And so, I met the first of my new class colleagues. A lovely girl who was young enough to be my daughter. She was full of positivity, ambition and excitement about our new course, and we shared a fair bit of trepidation too. Once the introductions started, I was struck by the range of different people involved. We had representatives from South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and of course, Ireland. We had young and slightly older, and the group was split about 50:50 between male and female. A real eclectic mix. I could see that this was going to be an interesting journey.
We are only a few weeks in and so far I have to say I’m really enjoying the experience. Stay in touch with our blog to see how things develop as we make our way through college as “oulwans at college”
By the way, I still haven’t seen any of those bat-like professors flying around the place!
When I left school in 1998 [a great year, the Spice Girls were the biggest group in the world] I went to Dundalk IT to study Business Management. I attended about 8 lectures and after 2 months I packed it in. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life but I knew it didn’t involve sitting through lectures about the Irish tax system and commuting to Co. Louth every day for the next 3 years!
I had all the intentions in the world to go back to study and of course I didn’t. I’ve done pretty OK on my own without any 3rd level qualifications but I always felt like I was missing out on that particular life experience. It has also been a barrier with some companies I have encountered over the years. If you don’t have 3rd level they don’t want to know. Which considering the amount of halfwits out there with 3rd level qualifications this isn’t an exact science. Common sense and life experience are unfortunately not on any curriculum.
After a rollercoaster few years with redundancy, working in London and Vancouver and having my first novel published I found myself at a stalemate. I spread myself too much and realised I needed to upscale to move forward with my career. I found out through social media [not Intreo] about a Springboard open day in Dublin Castle and decided to attend. In my head Springboard was a new name for FÁS and, if I am honest, was not expecting too much and I certainly wasn’t expecting to find what I did entering Dublin Castle that day - a multitude of prestigious colleges and universities with an array of courses on offer.
Then the doubts started to kick in. Every college representative I spoke to asked me what my degree was in.
“I don’t have one.”
But there was a silver lining. An elusive RPEL [Recognition of Prior Experiential Learning ] application process. The courses which stood out to me were Digital Marketing at NCI and DBS and both explained the process to me. If I have enough prior experience which was relevant to the course content I would be eligible to apply via this application process. I spent a huge amount of time teaching myself about social media and online marketing throughout the process of marketing my novel with my publishers. I had achieved a lot and it was time for my achievements to be validated.
The RPEL form was initially daunting and after a couple of days writing, rewriting and doubting myself every 5 minutes I had completed the application forms and submitted them to both colleges.
Now it was a waiting game. Checking my emails hourly. Biting my nails and then realising I was just chewing and not biting, what was the point?
A week had past and I got an email. Congratulations Brendan!
Then, a second email. Congratulations Brendan!
Shut the front door.
After careful consideration I accepted the offer from NCI. The first part of the process of becoming a mature student was complete but by Jaysus there was a lot ahead of me.
It’s the end of November and I’m in my third month of college with two assignments under my belt and a 3rd in progress.
Wow, I procrastinated about going back to college for a whole year! I knew I wanted to go back to college but that “little voice of self-doubt” held me back.
Where would I get the time? My two kiddos need my full attention.
I’d never have the time to study!
The thoughts of having to work in a group on a project, rattled me.
Would people judge me because I’ve been out of the workforce for a few years?
Would my fellow students in my class be much younger, maybe even straight out of school?
Oh, gosh I’m going to side line this idea! I did this over and over BUT I kept going back and what I eventually realised was “I” wanted this and “I” needed this for me. Everything else revolves around my family which I love but my mind needed to get out there again.
As I wasn’t working I contacted my local Intreo office looking for assistance and a helpful liaison officer listened to my story and my goals. I had found the Digital Marketing course I wanted to do through Springboard. As this course was a Level 8 certification, I had to get through an acceptance process with the college. Nerve wrecking stuff! This RPEL form [Recognition of Prior Learning Experience] landed in my inbox from the admissions office during the summer. This I started to realise at the time was probably my first assignment. Testing how badly I wanted to get on to this course. If I am honest I found it difficult. The kids had gone to bed. I sat down and my head was empty. What had I done in my life before kids? LOL! The term baby brain flashed through my head! I stuck with it and got it done over two evenings. So the next part of this process in my head was; was I good enough? Would they accept me? EEEK the waiting began.
The day before my sister’s wedding in July I was in the beautician’s having my nails done when my mobile beeped. Bing! There it was! My application approved and accepted! Wooohooo! I was elated! I did it! I got over that first hurdle!
All those worries and self-doubts are such a waste of time! Just put yourself out there and do it! If I can then you can!
Oulwans At College is an essential guide to surviving college as a mature student with 3 contributors which from hereon in will be lovingly referred to as “the Oulwans”. Our guide will be informative, fun and quintessentially Irish.
Our first Oulwan is Grumpe, AKA Alan. The elder lemon of the group, Alan is 54 years young and married to the lovely Cathy. They have 3 grown up sons who are all in their 20’s! Alan was made redundant from his job in the past year and as we have all experienced on some level over the past couple of years is that ageism is well and truly alive and well when trying to get back into the workplace. Alan had some good advice for himself following his negative experiences with recruitment agencies and various companies. “Feck them.” Wise words indeed! With a wealth of experience Alan has now decided to go down the route of setting up his own business. With setting up a business these days it is vital that digital marketing plays a key part of any successful venture. With this in mind Alan decided to pursue a qualification in digital marketing which brought him to the doors of the National College of Ireland back in September with our other 2 Oulwans!
Our second Oulwan is Crazy, AKA Aoife. Aoife is 39 years old, married to the wonderful John and who have 2 chislers, Saoirse who is aged 5 and Riain who is 2. Aoife studied Health & Fitness after secondary school and pursued a higher diploma in Business Management which led her down the career path of Gym & Sales Management for 8 years. She then went into the area of fundraising for non-profit organisations. Her daughter was born in 2010 with a complex heart defect which was life changing for the young family. As a result Aoife had to give up working full time and became involved in the charity Heart Children Ireland who helps families with young children who have similar conditions as little Saoirse. Developing a calendar fundraising project with her husband through the charity they have since raised €120,000. A big part of the success of the fundraising was due to marketing the calendar online and in particular though social media. This gave Aoife the drive to pursue Digital Marketing at NCI which she hopes can help her kick start a career in this ever growing area.
Our third and final Oulwan is Contrary, AKA Brendan. Brendan is 37 years old, is not married nor does he have any children but he has a cockatiel named Rocky and a Brazilian boyfriend named Gustavo! Brendan has had a rollercoaster few years career wise. Following being made redundant from his much loved [“I get loads of free PS3 games.”] job at Sony PlayStation in 2012 he has worked in event management in the UK at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games and in British Colombia, Canada revisiting his old Ticketmaster roots managing events at a number of venues in downtown Vancouver. Upon returning home from Canada Brendan took to writing and had his first novel published in 2014 which became an Irish Times bestseller charting at number 8 in the Irish book charts. Unless you are Dan Brown producing a bestseller unfortunately does not make for a steady wage never mind any sort of wealth despite its success! Brendan worked freelance at a number of festivals since but has struggled to get back into full time permanent employment. He was heavily involved in the marketing of his novel and subsequent merchandise store following its release and decided this was an area he would like to pursue. How best to do this? Become an Oulwan at college!