Studying over 60 – my writing dream 33



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Does anyone use the word ‘matriculate’ any more?

50 years ago I failed to matriculate by five marks – those missing marks in the Maths I dreaded meant no matriculation, no university. I went off to work, to husband and family, to living in three different countries. It took almost half a century, but I finally got to go to university.

With my husband’s cheerful agreement I started the process, and retired from work at 59 to begin studying. Not Maths of course, Creative Writing. It’s surprising what you can do once your mind is made up. I didn’t want to waste his income so (gasp) I gave up smoking after 34 years. That was an adventure in itself and I was very proud of myself for finding the courage to quit.

The first two years I spent at Griffith University in Brisbane doing Bachelor of Arts subjects to work up the credits I needed for Queensland University of Technology’s Creative Writing course, nestled into a Fine Arts degree. I happily tackled my studies. Lots of reading, lots of writing. Mmm. I loved it all, even the exams.

There are natural abbreviations one applies to degrees – BA, BSc, and so on. Bachelor of Fine Arts doesn’t sound so good abbreviated so I always say the whole thing in full!

My daughters had urged me not to be a typical mature aged student, meaning ‘you don’t have to answer every question, Mum’. That part was hard. I was pleased to find that the 18-23 year olds I studied with were invariably happy to have a mature aged student on their team. Being the mother of four daughters has made me fairly resilient so I fitted in quite well.

I finished my part time degree after five years, and two teddy bears with mortar boards graced my dressing table. Then I learned I was two subjects short – I had done two subjects that I shouldn’t have! So the teddies had to face the wall until I could rightfully claim I’d graduated. It took another year as one subject was in one semester and the second in another semester. I’m so happy to see my furry friends’ faces!

Anyone in their mature years who has a yearn to be intellectually tested should consider university study. There is a wealth of subjects in a wealth of courses available. You’ll mix with keen minds of all ages, wonder at the efforts of foreign students struggling with English, exult in your marks of 6 and 7, and making the Dean’s list. So exciting!

We over 60s and over 70s have an enormous advantage over the young ones. Our wide general knowledge and life experience is hard to beat as a background for almost any subject.

Have you thought about tertiary study? Don’t dismiss the idea because of age. I was 59 when I started and 65 when I finished – but I’ve heard of and met many students older than I was. For a long time I had a picture tacked to my computer desk of a 92 year old man who finally finished his Masters, after a gap of decades. He was my hero!

I may not have my Masters but who knows what the future holds?

Is study in your future too? Or have you studied in your 60s? What would you study if you could? Tell us below.

Fran Goodey

Frances Goodey is the mother of four daughters and the grandmother of two primary school age boys. With six brothers and two sisters, she was raised in Sydney and later lived and worked in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Brisbane. She is an avid reader and has had some small success with children's stories being published in New Zealand and Australia. Both she and her husband are retired, and her daughters live in Brisbane, Toowoomba, Sydney and Frankfurt.

  1. Congratulations Fran. What a wonderful achievement to have succeeded in following your dream and to have completed your degree in creative writing. You are an inspiration to all of us over 60s who only dream of doing what you have done.

  2. Well done Fran. I followed my dream and got my Advanced Diploma of Fine Arts when I retired, but that was through TAFE not Uni. You are truly inspirational.

  3. Is this government funded? I am not going to be popular for how I feel & I think it’s wonderful to have a goal but I can’t see the point in obtaining a degree at this age. I just can’t see why a degree is necessary. Tax payers money could, I think, be better spent. If it’s at your own cost then great.

    3 REPLY
    • No, it’s not government funded. There is a HECS payment which, when I did it in the 90s, was $950 per semester, with two semesters a year! Paid out of your own pocket. Some people like to keep learning, and now the retirement age is 70, need to keep working.

    • Many things in this life are not necessary but how dull and boring it would be if being necessary was our measure for living and enjoying our lives. Hats off to anyone who achieves for the personal satisfaction of doing something important to them, no matter how big or small.

    • Yes if its there and available and you want to have a go! Do it, you don’t want to leave this planet missing out, a lot of people raise a family and work hard but feel they can achieve more.

  4. Yes congratulations Fran. Funny that my name is Fran too and I have just completed and gained my degree in Public Relations at Griffith university. When I was young my father said there was no money for me, being the girl in the family to do higher education. I am 62 next birthday and held down a full time job and study. It took me two years and I was so proud, only to find out I was a subject short. Last week I finished and gained my Diploma of Public Relations after two and a half years. I live alone and am looking for work, so my celebration was a message to my son and a can of coke and a banana. I received my first distinctions in anything in my entire life. So yes, congratulations Fran. My son says we at our age, want it more and have a much better work ethic than younger people. I don’t know if that’s true, but we are proof that you can do anything you put your mind to. Now, to get a job!!! mmm.

    1 REPLY
    • Congrats to you to Fran. You must be so proud of yourself. Good luck with finding employment, you too are an inspiration for all of us.

  5. I went to uni when I was 51. I had never been before. I was a hospital trained nurse but needed extra qualifications to further my career. I did a two year Post Grad in Social science, Gerontology. I struggled to understand the difference between Sociology and Psychology. However, the penny dropped and I did very well. The interesting part, was reading my assignments and seeing the transition from writing to academic writing. I was also working full time, so it was hard work. Great Graduation day

  6. I did a Diploma in Professional Counseling, in my late fifties. It was online with regular weekend workshops. I paid for it, but while I was not working I got Austudy payments. It gave me the ability to help others, as part of my work in China and later. I think ts a wonderful thing that we can achieve these qualifications at a later age. Life is a learning process, ..I’m now studying Spanish, and art.
    …I also did a Diploma in Professional Photography in my early fifties….that took four years mostly part time. Awesome. (None of the above was government funded btw)
    Good on anyone who is studying and enjoying the learning process, whatever your age.

  7. After a long relationship breakup years ago the counsellor advised me to try uni. I fell off the chair laughing as I didn’t even pass General Maths at the Intermediate Certificate and came 40/50 in the class. I ended up enrolling at UNE Armidale and did a major in Archaeology and also Australian Colonial History and Aboriginal Studies. You can do it when you get older and can concentrate, as I ended up with a distinction average. I didn’t do anything with it -just wanted to see if I could do it! Give it a a go 🙂

  8. I studied for post registration degree in nursing. Loved the uni atmosphere and the camaraderie with all the students. I was 55 when I started and graduated just before my 60th. Still working, the degree made no difference to my pay but knowing I could achieve was a huge morale booster.

  9. Congratulations Fran! I left school at 14, had secretarial training, married, then worked with my husband in varying businesses, decided at 40 and after 4 children, to work for the community, went to TAFE for 3 years obtained a Certificate of Welfare which gave me entry into Newcastle University. Finally graduated at age 50 with a BA. All this whilst working full time and looking after a house, a family and the accounts for my husband,s business. Great days! I am now 82 and still enjoying life! X

  10. Congratulations Fran and anyone who has achieved higher education in later years. I met a lady who at 80 completed her Masters in fine arts, and a wiz on a computer to boot.

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