“To embark on the journey towards your goals and dreams requires bravery. To remain on that path requires courage. The bridge that merges the two is commitment.”

Steve Maraboli 

Mature students deserve a tip of our hat for the rich perspectives and lived experiences they bring to each classroom and campus. Previously, most students at post-secondary institutions entered directly from high school, but there has been a big shift in recent times, with non-direct (mature students or transfer students) pursuing their post-secondary education. In fact, these students make up a majority of Humber’s student demographic today! Their journeys are often very different from that of the typical student, as are their concerns and the supports they need. 

Humber’s Student Success and Engagement portfolio offers various resources that aim to create a supportive an inclusive environment for mature learners and enhance their sense of belonging. In collaboration with various Humber departments, these projects are an invaluable resource to mature students. 

The projects are steered by Jacqueline Morgan, Director, Strategy, and Innovation, and Meshanda Phillips, Project Coordinator, both team members within the Office of the Dean of Students. We sat down with them to learn all about it. But before we do a deep dive, let’s hear from a mature student first! 

Mature student POV: Why does this matter?

“I can say that Humber has a huge focus on EDI, which includes mature students. As a mature student, I can tell you that entering college years after high school, I felt like a fish out of water. I didn’t feel I could relate to my peers, or that I was “too old” to fit in,” says Jessica Carrera, Student Advocate at IGNITE. 

“Just like the equity hubs on our campuses, these initiatives and events help us connect with others just like us or have gone through something so similar. They can offer advice on how to build the confidence we need to get out of our comfort zone and help us use our life experiences to guide our peers. The great thing about post-secondary education is that it’s so diverse, not only by where you come from, who you choose to love, but also how much experience you have in life,” Carrera adds. 

So, who is a mature student?

VIA: Office of the Dean of Students

Unlike my previously held belief, I discovered that the team defines who a mature student is by a broad and inclusive set of criteria, focusing on engagement rather than age specifically. (Tip: this definition varies with that of Humber College’s, so always check to see whether you meet the criteria defined by each organization.) What’s more, I discovered I’m a mature student myself! Mature students could be one of these or more:  

  • First-generation student (implies that your parent(s) or guardian(s) did not attend postsecondary, therefore making you the first in the family to do so.)  
  • Have been away from formal education for at least 4 years.  
  • Have not completed any college or university programs.  
  • Someone returning for a second career or to upgrade skills.  
  • Has lived experiences as a parent, legal guardian, or caregiver.  

What are their typical concerns?

“Based on the feedback collected, several key concerns have surfaced among mature students. Primarily, there’s a notable challenge in readjusting to post-secondary life, particularly in terms of acclimating to the classroom setting and interacting with younger peers, while also relearning study habits; and the overall student life. Balancing multiple roles and responsibilities, especially for those who are parents or caregivers, presents another significant hurdle,” Phillips says. 

“Additionally, flexibility in scheduling, effective time management, and navigating technology are areas where mature learners seek support. Importantly, another pressing concern expressed by mature students is the challenge of navigating resources and finding a sense of community and belonging in an environment that may seem predominantly youth centric,” Phillips adds. 

A sign displaying resources for mature students.
VIA: Office of the Dean of Students

Phillips notes that all the team’s initiatives are backed by research as well as input from mature students at Humber. “Throughout the Summer and Fall of 2023, we organized mature student experience surveys available across all campuses and hosted focus groups at our North and Lakeshore campuses, which had 84 students participate. These sessions provided invaluable insights and feedback from our mature learners, driving the development of initiatives tailored to their needs,” she says. 

Without further ado, let’s look at these exciting resources! Most of these resources are open to the general student population too, so feel free to bring your buddies along! To access these initiatives and stay up to date, join the mature student mailing list here or contact Phillips at Meshanda.Phillips@humber.ca. You can also follow the @lifeathumber page on Instagram. 

Mature students hot tips

The hot tips brochure, curated with the handiest resources for mature learners, is divided into two sections—Learning and Life Supports, and Community and Belonging. It features QR codes that link directly to relevant websites or appointment booking platforms. To date, over 500 brochures have been distributed and it’s the team’s most popular resource. You can access it here

APA Essentials

A projector displaying the sign "APA Essentials."
VIA: Office of the Dean of Students

Have you ever seen an assignment and groaned when you saw “reference in APA style?” Well, this one’s for you (and me… and literally every student out there.) The APA Essentials workshop, offered in conjunction with various Humber departments, is for students looking to excel in their academic writing and learn core components of APA style. Whether an absolute novice to APA or a pro looking to refine your skills, the workshop is for everyone.  

Fireside Series

VIA: Office of the Dean of Students

As a (recently discovered) mature student myself, I’ve often felt moments where my peers couldn’t connect to certain experiences I’d narrate. Right from discussing burnout from three years of working a high-stress job or just the weirdness of returning to a classroom after five years, I felt like the odd one out. If you’ve ever felt the same, the Fireside Series is for you! 

The student-facilitated panel discussion lets students share their journeys inside and outside the classroom. Students can drop in and hear from like-minded peers or catch recorded sessions via the @lifeathumber’s YouTube channel. Featured topics also include how to empower yourself as a mature learner and find strength in community. Check out their latest Fireside Series, #InspireInclusion, on International Women’s Day here

Sip and Chill Cafe

A menu.
VIA: Office of the Dean of Students

Sometimes, you don’t want to have a serious or heavy conversation. You just want to chill, grab a snack and relax. Or maybe you even want to just interact with younger peers and find a connection with them in a safe environment! *Drumroll* for… the Sip and Chill Cafe! Organized in partnership with First Year Experience (FYE) and the Dean’s Office, It’s a safe space for mature learners to connect between classes, grab free beverages and snacks and find information on giveaways, contests and events on campus tailored for them. At the end of the day, it’s a casual, laidback atmosphere where you might find your next bestie or even a much-needed agony aunt. 

The Sip and Chill Cafe is held at the Lakeshore campus every other week. If you’re looking to catch their next session, it’ll be held on March 27, 2024, at the Welcome building on the second floor! Don’t miss out!  

Tech Tip Tuesdays

To address concerns from mature learners about navigating technology as well as offer a broad resource for all learners looking for tech knowledge, “Tech Tip Tuesdays” on the @lifeathumber page on Instagram assists students with technology-related issues. Whether you’re wondering about how to use the $25 printing credit available to you, using campus Wi-Fi or getting Campus Compass, the team has your back! 

IGNITE bonus: Mature Student Success Club

Supported by IGNITE as part of its clubs initiative, the Mature Student Success club is another spot where you can not only find meaningful connections but also learn how to network to develop professionally. It seeks to bridge the gap between Humber services and mature students. Learn more here!  

Ultimately, whether you’re a mature student yourself or know one you can share this article with, we hope we left you with clear, meaningful resources. At the end of the day, diverse perspectives and journeys in the student body create a more well-informed and vibrant community, and we’re so proud of all our mature learners for joining us, at Humber and IGNITE! 

Feature photo via Office of the Dean of Students

Want to discover other resources available to you? Check out these five library services you may not have heard about!

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