It’s the time of year when high school graduates who applied to Ryerson are beginning to receive their acceptances.
For 17- to 18-year-olds, this is an exciting time. A new chapter in their life is about to begin and they will be surrounded by a new group of peers. But what if you don’t fit in this age cohort?
For mature students — students aged 21 and older — beginning post-secondary education can be intimidating.
Kristy Milland, a 36-year-old full-time psychology student at Ryerson, said at times she feels alienated on campus.
“It’s difficult to make friends because everyone’s the same age as my daughter. Even to get notes from people they kind of look at me weird,” Milland said.
On top of being a full-time student, Milland also juggles being a mom, an entrepreneur and a labour activist.
Rudhra Persad, the mentoring officer at the tri-mentoring program and a mature student at Ryerson, said mature students often have different life responsibilities than traditional-aged students.
“Managing everything can be a challenge. If you’re a mature student and you work full time and you also have an hour commute and you have a family and you have a mortgage, that’s a lot of things going on at the same time,” Persad said.
Just like Milland, Persad, 38, also struggles with the feeling of belonging in class.
“I still dread when the professor says, ‘You’re going to get into groups and you’re going to talk about this.’ Not just because I feel awkward but also because when you don’t fit into the dominant population it can feel very marginalizing.”
In order to try to connect with mature students on campus, the tri-mentoring office began mature student programming at the beginning of this school year.
They create relevant events for mature students both on campus and in the community.
Taija Ryan, the lead mentor for mature students at Ryerson, said her main goal is to help mature students connect.
Ryan, 29, also said when she first began her undergrad she felt excluded from the social scene at Ryerson.
“It was through tri-mentoring where I realized that there’s so much more to Ryerson and there’s so much more that I could be a part of … there’s so many other people like me out there who don’t know that information,” Ryan said.
However, it’s a challenge to inform mature students about the events because of how busy their lives are and because of all the other event notifications emailed to them daily, Persad said.
That’s why mature students, such as Milland, often feel disconnected from each other and are unaware of programs such as tri-mentoring.
“I’d like to see more interaction. I wish I had the support of other people my age,” Milland said.
Although Ryan said connecting mature students on campus is her mission, she encourages them to step outside their comfort zone and connect with traditional-aged students as well.
“Mix, mingle. People who are not mature students are more involved in campus and so they have access and knowledge that mature students may not have,” Ryan said.