After all, learning is continuous—and there’s no cut-off age for starting or continuing your post-secondary education. While the most common archetype of a “college or university student” is a person who just graduated high school, Humber College and UofGH’s campuses include students of all ages—including those who started later on as mature students.
Maybe you went to college or university several years ago and have been in the workforce for a little while; but now you want to upgrade your skills or change careers. Perhaps you took some time away from school to get to know yourself and your interests better before settling on a career path. Or, maybe, you took a break from school to start a family and now feel ready to get back to it.
Whatever your reason for pursuing education as a mature student, it’s likely your experience on campus will be slightly different than your younger peers’—and that can be an overwhelming prospect.
Enter: Humber’s Mature Student Success Club (MSSH). It’s an assembly of over 25 like-minded mature students at Humber and UofGH who come together to upgrade their professional skills, network and make meaningful connections with people on a similar path.
Intrigued? We sure are. That’s why IGNITE got in touch with some folks from MSSH to learn first-hand what it offers, how it can help mature students and how you can get involved by attending IGNITE’s Mature Student Experience virtual speaker session on Friday, Jan. 14.
First, we spoke with Jessica Urzua, a current culinary management student at Humber, to get her take on her experience within the club throughout her studies.
How has Humber’s Mature Student Success Club supported you on your academic journey?
Urzua: Humber’s Mature Student Success Club has helped me on my academic journey by being the support team I needed when I felt like I couldn’t push through. When you are a mature student, most times you’re a parent—with a job, [and a] relationship—and now you’re adding on an education. Sometimes it can feel like a lot; and there were times I felt like dropping out because, in my head, I thought I missed my chance to get an education.
Then I remembered this club. There are many members who are in the same situation I’m in and they’re pushing through all the hard times. I’m not the first mature student, and I won’t be the last, but I couldn’t have made it this far without Humber’s Mature Student Success Club.
What MSSH resources have you found most helpful?
Urzua: I found that the group meetings we have are so helpful because they have us connect with other mature students and find people with the same interests or another parent we can relate to.
What would you say to a potential mature student who is trying to decide whether to start or continue their education at Humber or UofGH?
Urzua: I would tell that potential mature student that it doesn’t matter how old you are—gaining more knowledge and learning new skills will always be beneficial. Sometimes we put our dreams aside to do what’s best for our loved ones; but, when we get that opportunity again to follow our dreams, chase them—because not everyone is given that second chance.
In your opinion, how can incoming mature students prepare before returning to or starting a post-secondary program?
Urzua: Mature students returning or starting a post-secondary program should prepare themselves mentally. Don’t begin your program thinking negatively, thinking that you will be made fun of because you are older or [thinking you] will fail. Making mistakes will help you learn how to do things better next time. And, that’s what school is about: to learn. Just go into class everyday with a positive, confident and open mind. With that, you’ll be closer to success. It’s also okay to ask for help—and it doesn’t make you look weak. Our instructors are there to support us.
What’s something you wish more people understood about being a mature student?
Urzua: I want people to not see mature students as “only” the older students of the classroom; or [only as a] parent. I want them to see us as just another student in the program. Age means nothing in the workplace; it’s about how you work, the relationships you build and the experience you have.
Just because we’re older doesn’t mean we know everything—so teach us what you know and we’ll do the exact same. Also, don’t feel intimidated by us; we’re here for the same reason you are: to learn.
What are your best tips for balancing routine adult responsibilities with academic responsibilities?
Urzua: Organizing your time is key. Write everything out in advance and set times for work, schoolwork and social life breaks. I find meal prepping for the week can help with saving time.
Another tip I have is that it’s okay to say no! When you feel like your plate is full, don’t take on more than you can handle because that can lead to burnout.
Why do you believe it’s important for mature students to find community with others during their time at Humber or UofGH?
Urzua: When mature students find community with others…it allows them an opportunity to show the other students that we’re more than just a title. We can help encourage students that age is nothing but a number—and [that] learning something new can be done at any stage of your life. Throughout our study years, we all face challenges (some harder than others) but this is our chance to unite as one—Humber College and UofGH students—and help push one another to the finish line.
How can students get involved within the MSSH?
Urzua: I got involved by following the Mature Student Success Club on Instagram and contacting the president of the club, Jodi. She added me to the email list so that I could keep up-to-date with any updates or events. Also, whenever I need someone to talk to, Jodi is there to listen.
Getting involved is that simple: just reach out. Humber College may put the “mature student” title on your file; but other mature students won’t know that you are one—so bring it to the club’s attention. You’ll meet so many students you can relate to, get support from and even make new lifetime friends.
The current club president, Jodi Kenny, also weighed in on some of our questions!
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What drove you to become the president of MSSH?
Kenny: I first heard about MSSH when I was volunteering for orientation. One of the members invited me to join; and the club was quite small [then] because the president at the time, Meshanda, was still in the early stages of gaining momentum. When all of the executives were graduating in April, I was approached to take over the group. I enjoyed my short time as a member and saw the potential this group could have, so I accepted the offer.
From there, I recruited my two co-vice-presidents: Fatma and Nadia. I honestly don’t know if this group would have grown to what it is in one short semester had I not found [them]. Their creativity and drive have helped us to grow the group to over 20 official members in just one semester! We also now have over 150 followers—and growing—on our club Instagram page.
Of everything the Mature Student Success Club has accomplished, what are you most proud of?
Kenny: I am proud of the growth and dedication we have seen over the past two semesters since I have become president. I am friends with our former president Meshanda and I believe her vision of what this club should be is coming to fruition as well. [Moreover], I am so proud of my co-vice-presidents and the work they have put into making this semester a success. [Finally], I am proud that we are growing every semester and that we are able to put on some really awesome events as a result.
We are a young club; but we are progressive and I have seen so much growth [during] my time as a member.
How would you like to see the club grow in the next couple years?
Kenny: I would love to see:
- our membership numbers grow
- [our club] continue to foster an inclusive environment for all mature students at Humber and UofGH
- [us] raise awareness about the club and put on fabulous events for club members
- the talents of members; and encourage them to bring forward ideas for future activities and to run events of their own. We are all so talented!
- [our club] continue to build a community for all mature students here at Humber and UofGH
What drove you to start Humber’s Mature Student Success Club?
Phillips: I remember starting my journey at Humber—and within the first week, I realized I was one of maybe four mature students in my classes. I would look around; and here is this 29-year-old surrounded by 18- and 20-year-olds. It was not always easy to build connections and meet like-minded people who [understood my] current situation: [a] single mom trying to figure out daycare schedules, work, etcetera. It took me becoming involved on campus and attending various events to realize that, yes, we [mature students] are a niche population—but [there are] enough of us to create a space for us to come together and build a community.
Also, in attending those events and [through] my volunteer work on campus, I spoke with other mature students who wanted to be part of the community. That inspired the club’s creation. Moreover, it was to bridge the gap between Humber’s and IGNITE’s services because I saw so much support available; but mature students were unaware of them.
Want to learn more about the mature student experience at Humber and UofGH?
You’re in luck! That’s because on Friday, Jan. 14 at 1 p.m. EST, IGNITE is hosting the Mature Student Experience!
Mature Student Experience is a virtual speaker session featuring five of your mature student peers at Humber and UofGH. Panelists will answer questions about key resources on campus, tips and tricks for staying motivated and successful and what IGNITE services are in place to make your life easier. The panel will include individuals from a variety of backgrounds and experiences—including members of the BIPOC community, a single mom and an international student.
Former UofGH mature student grad—and two-time Big Brother Canada house guest—Gary Levy will host the speaker session. And, as the icing on the cake (just in case it wasn’t already sweet enough), we’re giving away free $20 Amazon gift cards to the first 20 students who sign up and stay for the entire event.
Don’t wait—register for the Mature Student Experience virtual speaker session through Eventbrite today and get ready for an afternoon of community and connection. And, don’t forget to follow MSSH on Instagram to stay up-to-date with its initiatives!
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
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