Should I return to study?

This chapter from Get a new life by Kaye Fallick has been turned into your comprehensive three-part guide to returning to study. Find out if you should return to study and why.

Education is not a product: mark, diploma, job, money – in that order. It is a process, a never-ending one. – Ben Kaufman

The once-expected linear progress from early childhood to education, to adulthood where very few undertook lifelong learning has been blown apart. In recent years an increasingly flexible workplace has resulted in a similar freeing up of education and learning. A variety of opportunities are now available for people of all ages to modify careers, skills and interests through a course of study, be it short, long or medium. No longer is it mandatory to live in or move to a city or large regional centre to access the best brains in the world in universities, colleges or libraries. Changes in technology mean this content is now available 24 hours a day, wherever you may be.

Creating your life change through education
There is no end to the reasons why adults wish to get back to the books and incorporate learning into their day-to-day lives. Some are born learners, and some have never stopped since they left school, moving from short courses to first and second degrees and diplomas with ease and enthusiasm. Others hated school, and have suffered from poor learning self-esteem for decades. Revisiting educational options is an opportunity to redress this hurt. For others, the commencement of mature-age study will be the starting point of a major vocational change. This might involve years of full or part time study to achieve a qualification in a new field. Or it might be defined units of ongoing professional development. For others the joy of learning means an opportunity to learn and socialise with other like-minded people. For some, the rewards of continuing education will combine many of these features. There will also have to be an acknowledgement, and agreement if others are affected, of the financial investment you will  be required to make. Some courses are very expensive, as well as necessitating forgoing regular income, and it may be difficult to justify such a commitment if it seems a selfish waste of family income. How much does this course of study really mean to you? Can you convince those around you how important this is? Are there ways of ameliorating the financial burden by taking longer to complete the course or supplementing it with extra income?

Whatever is motivating you to take up the books again, it is useful to overview a roadmap of how to approach your learning. The three key stages to place yourself in the right educational environment are assessing your requirements of further education, understanding the different types of options available, and checking your eligibility.

Click NEXT to read about financial support available for adults returning to study But I can’t afford to study
For those wishing to study full-time, the federal government offers assistance in the form of Austudy payments. You may qualify for such assistance if:

  • you are over 25
  • you are doing an approved course at an approved institution (most master’s and all doctorate degrees are excluded)
  • you meet residency requirements
  • you meet the personal and partner income and assets test

The current payment for a single adult, no children, is $318.15 per fortnight. Advances to get you started and fare allowances also may apply. Abstudy is available for Indigenous students who wish to stay at school or move on to further studies. Check with Centrelink for an application and income assets test guidelines for both Austudy and Abstudy.

for those considering short courses, or single units, ask for seniors’ card discounts, if applicable, or a student discount if already enrolled in another course.

Why are you doing this?
Understanding the reasons why you are keen to start will help refine the questions you need to ask as you seek out the study path best suited to your purpose. If your reason for further education is vocational, then the decision becomes somewhat easier, as required qualifications will generally narrow your choices to a specific provider, such as a university or institute of technical and further education (TAFE). The choice will then be between different providers, depending on location, recognition of qualifications, and ease of entry. If you are seeking to learn a new skill, then it may be that a short course from one of the councils of adult education or TAFEs will suffice. Short courses are also excellent ways of learning a little more about a discipline, testing the water, before committing to a longer and/or more expensive course of study. If your interest is triggered by a desire to keep mentally active, again short courses, or the University of the Third Age (U3A) may best suit your needs.

Perhaps the most critical factor in your decision-making, apart from your passion for the subject matter, is how much time you feel you will realistically be able to devote to your learning. It is sometimes easy to look at a course guide for part-time study and decide that you might as well do two subjects per semester, rather than one. However what is listed as four contact hours per week usually means eight (attached) study hours. One 12-hour subject fitted around a busy day job may work – two may prove a challenge.

More information
Reprinted with permission from chapter nine of Get a new life by Kaye Fallick
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