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A return to the classroom is never too late

Increasing number of mature students attending post-secondary institutions in search of new careers

Samantha Ilagan, a third year student of Ontario Tech University, is one of many mature students who have returned to the classroom in search of a new career.

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Next week, Oshawa’s post secondary institutions will be abuzz with freshly returning student populations.

And while the narrative of post-secondary students usually depicts teenagers out of high school and young adults, there is another side.

A growing number of “mature” students are taking up seats in classrooms at Durham College, Trent University and Ontario Tech University.

One such student is Samantha Ilagan of Oshawa.

Ilagan is entering her third year at Ontario Tech, formerly UOIT, in the field of biological studies.

She previously started a career as a dental hygienist, but found it wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life.

“I wasn’t putting my passion into every day life,” she recalls.

Ilagan decided she’d like to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry, and set her sights on returning to school.

“I was ready to challenge myself and ready to learn,” she says, noting it was “for sure” a daunting decision.

“But it also excited me, because I could become involved in everything I wanted to,” she said.

Ilagan is now halfway through a six-year program, and her advice for mature students is to complete any courses as quickly as possible.

“I think university is made for people who love to learn… and you can finish it more quickly, because you know what it is like to work in a calendar year,” she adds. “I’ve taken summer school, and it’s speeding up the program.”

However, she notes there are indeed challenges, and being a mature student is a huge commitment.

“You are going to have to commit and just make it your focus,” she says.

As far as being older than some of the other students, Ilagan says, for her, it wasn’t an issue at all.

“I actually kept from telling my peers how old I was. Because, it wasn’t about that, it was about making study groups and realizing we are all in the same boat,” she says. “And once they found out I was older, they kind of ended up looking to me for other advice.”

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