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study-tips 5 min read

How to overcome the top 5 fears of returning to learning

By Lisa 02 Jun 2019
Two students studying outdoors

Making the choice to head back to study (or to start your uni career altogether) after a long break from the books can be a big and complex decision … it can be overwhelming in fact. If you’re not prepared, you can easily fall victim to the fears, worries and reservations that are in the back of your mind. Preparing yourself for the challenges of study and arming yourself with strategies to combat them is the best way to overcome the common fears of ‘returning to learning’. 

1. Time management

One of the most common fears of heading back to study is that you’ll be overwhelmed and won’t know how to manage your time. With work, study, family and life in general to juggle, you might find yourself thinking ‘how am I going to fit everything in’, ‘when is everything due’, ‘where do I have to be and what is it that I have to do’? This can be a tough one to figure out when you haven’t studied for a while, but there are a few simple strategies you can use to overcome this challenge.

Solution: Go back to basics and keep a diary or calendar where you write in all your appointments, important dates and assessment deadlines and carry it with you everywhere. At home, draw up a study management timetable to help you visualise when and where your study will fit within your routine. I will be the first to admit that I can’t live without my study plan, sometimes there is just not enough room in my head to remember everything I need to do! The key is to keep your planner up to date so that it’s always an accurate reflection of your commitments.

2. Friendships

As a mature age student you might be anxious about the social scene at university and worried about making friends. I used to think that I’d stand out as the older student and that nobody would want to talk me. It’s normal to be nervous about making friends, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go through your uni years alone. 

Solution: If you take the time to look around a lecture theatre or keep an eye on your course forums, you’ll notice that there are plenty of people in your courses who are all looking for the same friendships as you. Put yourself out there and strike up a conversation about anything that you may have in common, such as your course or the city you live in. Before you know it, you will have a study network, which is a small group of people you can talk to about your assignments and lectures and who you can swap notes with. The key is not to put pressure on yourself to become best friends with every person you meet. I used to chat to classmates for a few minutes each week before our lectures began and it wasn’t long before I had a familiar study network and someone to grab a coffee with after class.  

3. Technology

If you haven’t studied in a while, you are more than likely scared out of your wits about the technological side of uni study. But fear not. I speak from experience when I say that getting a handle on the technology used at university is easier than it looks.

Solution: The USQ Library has sessions at the beginning of each semester on how to use the library resources for your study. This is an excellent place to start, as many of the resources you’ll use in your study are accessed online. You can also attend tutorials and sessions during Orientation to learn about USQ StudyDesk as well as get information and advice to help develop your general computer skills. Trial and error is also one of the best ways to learn. I knew very little about computers when I first started at uni, so I decided to sit myself down one day before I started and I fiddled, fidgeted and clicked on every tab in Word, Excel and Powerpoint just to see what they did. Before I knew it, I had a fairly good grasp of how things worked. 

4. Support

Before I started my studies I found myself worrying not only about all the things that might go wrong, but what I would do and where I would turn if they did. A common returning to learning fear is that you’ll be facing the challenges of study on your own, but at USQ that’s certainly not the case.

Solution: If you do find yourself hitting a wall with your studies, there’s so many support services at USQ that you can turn to. Your lecturers and the Library are able to provide academic support, while the Welfare, Counselling and Health and Wellbeing teams are there to help with any personal or health factors that might be affecting your study. And, if you’re not sure who to see or where to go for help, your Student Relationship Officer is always there to help point you in the right direction. Put simply, there is always someone you can go to for support!

5. Failure

When you have a career, family and income to consider, the pressure to succeed in your studies and the fear of failure can be overwhelming. Often as mature age students we set very high expectations for ourselves, wanting to have great marks and a solid study schedule while keeping our career and family life sailing along smoothly too. While fearing failure is normal, unrealistic expectations can stop you from enjoying all there is to experience in your study journey.

Solution: Value your achievements, both big and small! Don’t judge your progress solely on the marks you receive for assignments. Instead, value what you have learned during the process of your degree and don’t, under any circumstances, judge yourself in comparison to the results of other students. Take the time to develop your self-confidence and resilience and use these skills to help you rebound from any study setbacks you may experience.

The main goal of getting back into study after a long period of time is to learn and to add to your life experiences. While it’s normal to have fears about returning to learning, don’t let those worries overshadow the excitement of the journey you’re about to embark on. Whatever concerns you have or challenges you encounter along the way, there is always a solution that can help you to overcome those hurdles.

To find out more about what to expect when heading to uni and how to blend study with your current schedule, check out this guide on adjusting to your new normal.

Image of Lisa.