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Mature student smiling after getting into university through Clearing

Can mature students apply through Clearing? Yes, I did!

About 10 years ago, I was introduced to my course, Visual Culture (it’s like history of art, but with a much broader focus that includes photography, film, advertising, fashion) by friends who had studied at Brighton. I read up about it, and though it seemed to chime with all my interests, I wasn’t in a position to study at the time.  

When the chance came last summer to make a life change and go to university, I knew what I wanted to study. Brighton is pretty much the only uni that offers it as a degree. I also applied for other art history courses, but none seemed to cover the broad range of topics that Visual Culture offered. 

The chance to study came up late last July – far too late to apply through normal channels. I applied to the university via UCAS about three weeks before last years A-level results were published. 

Mature Students’ Clearing Challenges

For me, the most challenging thing about the application process was writing a personal statement. Although I had lots of life experience, I had no idea how to sell myself to university. I spent about two weeks writing and re-writing it and eventually just concentrated on giving examples of how and why elements of the course interested me. 

To be honest, as I hadn’t studied anything for over 30 years, I assumed I’d have to do an Access course first. I got in touch with Brighton to see if they could suggest which subjects to study on an Access course. They encouraged me to try applying for a place at uni straight away, as a lot of the work done in the first year is to develop students’ study skills. 

Will there be a skills gap?

It was only once I started that I realised that everyone needs help getting their study skills up to university level. Whether they’ve just finished A-levels or, like me, haven’t studied for over 30 years. The university really supports students in developing their study skills in the first year. 

Certainly, on my course, I feel that my tutors are working with me, rather than a teacher/pupil relationship. This is really helped by the fact that the teaching groups are small in the History of Art and Design school, so you get to know the tutors and the other students really well and get to understand their interests too.   

Can mature students apply through Clearing?

Yes, they certainly can! Even though I’m a mature student, I still have no idea what I want to do “when I grow up” and graduate, but I think that’s ok. One of the things I wanted from going to uni was to be challenged by new ideas and exposed to new ways of thinking to help me decide what I want to do next in my career.  

Note: Often mature students apply through Clearing at the same time as every other Clearing student. The university has a commonly asked questions about Clearing page with specific answers to more detailed questions on the process.

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Kevin Hayes • 4th August 2021


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