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Am I too old for university?

Four mature students within the dBs Community share their experiences of returning to education and why their age didn't hold them back. 



The journey through education is different for every one of us. Some are fortunate enough to discover their strengths and passions in their formative years in education, but many struggle to know which direction to take in their lives until years later; while others encounter various challenges in life that prevent them from pursuing it. 

While each story is different, one question that is commonly shared in those looking to return to education is, 'am I too old for university?' Having welcomed so many mature students through our doors over the years, what better people to ask than those that not only took the plunge back into education, but excelled in it. 

Elizabeth Seagram-D’Avranches aka DJ Beach IT 🌸

Am I too old for university - Perspectives from the dBs Community (Elizabeth Seagram-DAvranches)

Currently studying the Access to HE: DJ & Electronic Music Production diploma at dBs Plymouth

When did you decide to return to education?

“I never stopped. I’ve been learning since I was 17 - I’ve done it all. Catering courses, ballroom dancing, jewellery making, pottery, drama therapy, crystal healing and Reiki. I was 58 years old when I applied to dBs to study the Access DJ diploma.”

What were the driving factors behind your decision?

“I lost my husband, Trev in 2015. We’d met back in 1989 and got into the rave scene together. Through this shared passion we ended up moving to Ibiza and living there for 14 years - I used to do my crystal therapy on the beach!

“Since then, I’ve been thinking more and more about going back to Ibiza and living out my days there. I had visions of being in some little beach bar with my DJ controller and playing all my tunes that I've made, but I had no idea how to do any of that. dBs seemed like the best place for me to change that.”

Were you ever concerned that your age would be a prohibitive factor in your inclusion and enjoyment when returning to education?

“Yes and no. Even though I’m 59 now, I still feel young. I still feel like that 17 year old who likes Siouxsie and the Banshees and went to see Simple Minds and Duran Duran, and all those rave DJs.

“The lads on the course are just lovely. There was a slight barrier with those that didn't know me, which was just because of perception. Seeing me with my greying hair with the last strands of blonde and some of my more random outfits, some people don't actually think that you could have been a raver or that you could feel so passionately about music at 59 in the same way that they do at 17-18. I think that’s quite natural, and it certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying my time at dBs.”

Was there a moment when you realised you’d made the right decision?

“I think it was the creative presentation we all had to do, because everyone was very nervous. I did my presentation on my late husband and his connection with Duran Duran - it's a long story, but it's a great story. It was my love of Trev that got me where I was because I thought he would have loved me doing this - he always supported me.

“I suppose I was talking to them about my Trev and music, and how important it was. It's not until you do those creative presentations and they see who you are and they realise that you’re not just someone who’s older than them - you’ve had a life and share a lot of common passions and aspirations.”

What advice would you give to a prospective mature student who may be asking themselves if they are ‘too old’ to return to education?

“I always say move your feet to the beat of your heart. You could get on with life and do the typical things that 50 year olds do, but I'm not your conventional 50 year old. It all depends on your personality and if you think that the world is your oyster, you'll believe that and you will just go ahead and do it.

“Age doesn’t come into it, because age is all in your head. Be confident in yourself, too. If you're really passionate about something, your confidence will come out and it will shine through and just let dBs do the heavy lifting in pointing you in the right direction.”

Paul Fernie

Am I too old for university - Perspectives from the dBs Community (Paul Fernie)

BA (Hons) Music Production & Sound Engineering graduate from dBs Bristol. Now engaged in a PhD research project surrounding the integration of music production into music therapy.

When did you decide to return to education?

"I made a decision to study when I was 38 years old. I’d achieved 8 GCSEs at 16 years old, but they were pretty poor, so I studied the Access to HE course at dBs Bristol to achieve the qualifications needed to progress onto university."

What were the driving factors behind your decision?

“I'd been presented with an opportunity. I moved to Bristol, I wasn't working and I had no commitments to anybody, so I could do whatever I wanted. I thought about going back to work, but that was a very short term thing and I was keen to really take the opportunity with both hands.

“I've always been passionate about music, I used to DJ when I was younger, and going to university was something I’d always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity and it just presented itself as the ideal time to do that.

“Thinking about others who might be in that same position, if you find yourself where you've got the opportunity to literally start again and if university is something you're considering then yes, absolutely think about it. One of the advantages to being a mature student is you’ve had a lot more time to think about what you might want to actually do and are more likely to invest a lot more energy into it.”

Were you ever concerned that your age would be a prohibitive factor in your inclusion and enjoyment of university?

“To be absolutely honest, it never really crossed my mind. My perspective has always been that as a mature student, I would bring something to the party that other people wouldn't have.

“During the Access course, there were five or six of us who were considered mature students, so there was already a group of people who had similar life experiences and were taking up a new challenge at a later point in life, and that was quite comforting to know that you weren't alone.

“When I moved to dBs HE to do the BA, many of those guys were progressing too, so it was an easy transition. I never really thought that my age would be prohibitive, other than coming back to education at a later stage in my life, I always saw myself like any other student.”

Was there a moment when you realised you’d made the right decision?

“I think one of my most memorable things was working with a band from dBs FE in the studio, and seeing that in spite of the 20-25 year age gap, we had a mutual respect and worked really well together.

“I also really enjoyed seeing the work of my fellow peers in the final year of the degree, and being really inspired by the work they had done. Feeling like you're part of this creative group of people, who have all developed these amazing ideas and grown together was a really great experience.”

What advice would you give to a prospective mature student who may be asking themselves if they are ‘too old’ for education?

“I would say, go for it! Don't sit back and wait for next year, do it now. Get in touch with the admissions team at the university that you're interested in, go meet those other mature students who will no doubt be there on those open days. As corny as it sounds, it's never too late to learn. It's never too late to take an opportunity to continue that personal development.”

Kelly Hart

Am I too old for university - Perspectives from the dBs Community (Kelly Hart)

Currently studying the Access to HE: DJ & Electronic Music Production diploma at dBs Plymouth.

When did you make the decision to return to education?

“Quite a few years ago I would say, when I was in my 20s, but I wasn't able to at the time. I've always looked at dBs from a distance because one of my partner's daughters went there, but it had never been possible. Now it is, which is great and here I am; 43 years old and studying the Access course.”

What were the driving factors behind your decision?

“Probably my partner Tom, who’s currently studying at BIMM. We’ve created music together in the past and I always wanted to get on a course. We actually ended up producing a track with hard house producer BK in Oxford; he was working with the Lisa Lashes School of Music at the time. I remember sitting there thinking I really want to do this and I said to him, ‘Is there any way I can get on the Lisa Lashes course?’ I wasn’t able to because we weren’t living in the right catchment area, so I left it there. Fast-forward to a couple of years later and Tom said ‘why don’t you go to dBs?’ and that was when I looked into it and things just fell into place.”

Were you ever concerned that your age would be a prohibitive factor in your inclusion and enjoyment of education?

“Never. I've never let my age stop me doing anything in my life, and I would advise anybody that wants to do it, just do it.”

Was there a moment when you realised you’d made the right decision?

“I think in the first few weeks, I was saying to myself, ‘What am I doing? I can't even get my head around Logic Pro.’ Having nearly finished the Access course and looking back, I’m really proud of myself and how well I’ve done, which is very rewarding.”

What advice would you give to a prospective mature student who may be asking themselves if they are ‘too old’ for education?

“I would say to anybody that does the Access course just stick with it. There were some people that started at the same time as me and didn’t see the course through to the end, which felt like such a missed opportunity because it's such a good course.”

Michael Kelly

Am I too old for university - Perspectives from the dBs Community (Michael Kelly)

Currently in his second year on the BA (Hons) Sound for Film & TV degree at dBs Bristol.

When did you make the decision to return to education?

“I was 38 years old when I decided to apply to dBs to study the Access to HE course.”

What were the driving factors behind your decision?

“I had reached a point in my life when things needed to change. I had been working at a well-paid job for many years, but at 35 I went through a divorce. I’d been a bit of a drinker in the past, mostly to unwind at the end of a long week, but that escalated in the wake of the divorce. A year after that I took redundancy, and my dependency on alcohol got worse leading to me going to two rehab clinics.

“The second rehab was in Cornwall and I was talking to the careers advisor and she happened to know someone at Camborne College, and after finding out about my interest in music and sound, they suggested I apply to study at dBs Bristol FE, so I did and that's how I ended up at the college.

“I wasn't really sure I was going to go to university at the time, it was more about integrating myself back into society, but I loved it. I just absolutely loved it. It really made me think about not just music, but my environment, and how things are affected by sound.”

Were you ever concerned that your age would be a prohibitive factor in your inclusion and enjoyment of university?

“I was more anxious about aptitude and getting to grips with things. I'd never seen Logic Pro before and everyone in my classes seemed quite au fait with it.”

Was there a moment when you realised you’d made the right decision?

“There’s some huge ones. Getting to use some of the kit and spaces, and pushing myself creatively, even now it reminds me why I’m here.

“Being able to take part in the all-synthesiser performance of ‘In C’ with Adrian Utley was an amazing experience. I’d never heard of ‘In C’ until that day, and that led me down a rabbit hole of exploration and new ideas.

Am I too old for university - Perspectives from the dBs Community (Michael Kelly during all synth performance of In C with Adrian Utley)

Michael and Adrian Utley tweaking his synth's settings for the performance of
Terry Riley's 'In C'

“What's really stood out is when I've struggled and I've reached out I've always been heard. Over the past few years I’ve been learning how to deal with anxiety. In all my time at dBs I've never come to anybody and said ‘I'm struggling with this or I need some help with that,’ and they’ve not given me that support. That's been really appreciated and I’ve felt very nurtured.”

What advice would you give to a prospective mature student who may be asking themselves if they are ‘too old’ for university?

“Think about what you want to do and just do it. Just give yourself the chance to do it and see what happens.”

FIND OUT MORE
Never too late to learn: Access to HE students share their stories


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