There is a wealth of research and literature that tells us that a student’s personal and academic success in university can be directly correlated to their level of involvement. Student development theorist Alexander Astin (1999) says “involvement takes many forms, such as absorption in academic work, participating in extracurricular activities, and interaction with faculty and other institutional personnel, the greater the student’s involvement in college, the greater will be the amount of student learning and personal development”(p. 528-229)
Mature and Transfer students face unique challenges and barriers to getting involved. University is a very different experience to college. Transfer students face difficulties such as larger class sizes, heavier workloads, and fewer interactions with faculty, peers, and staff. Mature students may also find that they have trouble fitting in with younger students, financial concerns, heavy employment demands, and trouble meeting the needs of their dependents.
I transferred to university after completing a three-year college diploma. I was several years older than most students in my cohort, I had a family including a child, and I was working to support us both. As a mature and transfer student I experienced many barriers during my university career.
Entering a program as an upper year student caused issues academically and personally. My classmates had been introduced to university expectations and had been adapting to them slowly while I had to acclimatize very quickly to the academic expectations. I also found it difficult to integrate socially with students who had already spent a year together. Even if I was accepted by my peers, I had a family so engaging in the social aspect was nearly impossible. Time management issues quickly developed as I struggled to focus on readings, studying, and group assignments while supporting my family. As I felt my responsibilities as a mother and student slipping out of my control my stress and anxiety increased as my mental health declined.
In hindsight I am surprised I was able to complete my degree at all and I understand why I chose to finish with a BA instead of a BBA as originally planned.
What I know now about all of the support services available to assist students like me would have certainly changed my experience, and I am excited to share these resources with our incoming students at NSO Mature and Transfer next week. My goal will be to educate them on the resources available to them and my hope is that this information resonates throughout their university program so that when they face similar challenges they know they do not have to go alone.