If you have ever had the opportunity to visit the ACMAPS office, chances are you’ve met our wonderful Student Advisor, Karen Tait. As an academic advisor, Karen’s comprehensive knowledge of York U, empathetic personality, and readiness to advocate has made her very popular among mature students. What many may notknow is that in addition to being an awesome academic advisor, Karen is also a mature graduate student. Being both an academic advisor and a mature student gives Karen a unique perspective on what it takes to be an effective student. I asked her a few questions to get her advice for mature students at York University.
If you could give every student a few pieces of advice that they should follow during their time at York University, what would they be?
1) Engage and build strong network among fellow students, professors, and teaching assistants.
2) Learn how to advocate for yourself – do not allow yourself to be silenced. Ask questions, and then more questions if necessary, when you are in doubt.
3) Utilize the vast array of resources that are available on campus.
4) Bonus: Always break down your long term goals into short term goals.
What are some advantages to being a mature student when compared to being a more traditional out-of-high-school student?
A mature student has a vast amount of experience, both good and bad, extensive practical skills, and a wide knowledge base. They often require minimal room for trial and error, as they have already been there and done that. In addition, mature students have a specific level of focus and determination, and the mindset necessary to achieve their goals
In your role as a Student Advisor, you help students ensure that their academic pathway is both smooth and meaningful. What are some of the most common issues or problems that mature students encounter? What can students do to avoid them?
From advising perspective mature students face challenges primarily in the following areas;
1) Financial challenges
2) Getting a strong orientation in terms of understanding degree requirements, course enrollment, rules/regulations/policies and guidelines
3) Managing the life/family/work balance
4) Child care
5) Lack of knowledge on how to navigate the system or advocate for themselves
6) Dealing with stress or failure
7) Prior learning recognition and transitioning into university life
8) Limited course offering/program in the weekends and evenings
9) Limited access to experiential learning opportunities such as internships
The reality is that issues that are embedded systemically are unavoidable on some levels; however, if a student tries to situate themselves from a more proactive rather than reactive standpoint, often there will be more viable options and solutions. This involves building a strong awareness of the rules, regulations, and policies; and researching information thoroughly, if possible, long before applying for admissions or accepting an offer for admissions. Also, students must try to acquire knowledge of the resources available so that they can implement the fundamentals every step of the way in their academic plan. Ultimately, this becomes a framework and a big part of the process of achieving both their short and long term goals.