Mature students at Mount Allison face a unique set of challenges during their time here at university. Mature students are defined as students over the age of 22 upon application, with fewer than 18 transferrable credits from another post-secondary institution. Many are first-generation university students from low-income backgrounds who have taken time off after high school to work.
Rachel Smith, a political science student in her final year of study, said that being a mature student can be stressful.
After taking a year off after high school to work, Smith attended the University of Regina for two and a half years, before becoming pregnant with her now seven-year-old daughter. After taking a few years off to work, raise her daughter and study at a local community college, she began attending Mt. A while living and working part-time in Amherst. Currently pregnant with her second child, Smith will be finishing her degree this semester.
“It becomes challenging to have a social life as a mature student when you have a job and a family to manage, on top of classes and school work,” she said. “I feel kind of left out of the more social aspects of university due to the timing and party atmosphere of many events on campus.”
Smith, a first-generation university student, said that having a strong support system was essential to her success at Mt. A. She also said that most professors have been accommodating to her situation, especially those who have their own children.
According to an email from registrar Chris Parker, there are currently 55 mature students enrolled at Mt. A and six per cent of all annual applicants are mature students. In order to apply, mature applicants must send an updated resume, a letter of intent outlining academic and professional goals and high school transcripts.
Parker wrote that “as with all students, mature students have access to resources such as financial aid, counselling, academic advising, academic support services, the wellness centre and the fitness centre.”
Smith said that the University should do more to specifically accommodate mature students.
“As it stands, I’ve been here for nearly three years and have rarely heard anything about events geared toward mature students, or even about any academic or financial supports that might be available,” she said.
There are currently no bursaries for mature students specifically, other than a senior citizen bursary for those over the age of 65.
To attract mature students, Mt. A used to offer free tuition for senior citizens over the age of 65, but cancelled this policy in 2014.
Chelsea Doherty, a mature philosophy student, left the University of King’s College and took two years off for mental health reasons before coming to Mt. A. She said that more could be done to accommodate mature students.
“I think that would be really great [if there were bursaries available specifically to mature students] because a lot of people, including myself, take time off to make money to go to school.”
Doherty said Mt. A has been more accommodating to her mental health concerns than her previous university. She also said that she has been able to relate and connect with her professors due to her age.