1 September 2000


NOW is the time to take the plunge, says mature student Sally Milner.

The 37-year-old has left her job as county organiser for Northumberland Young Farmers and is about to start a three-year theology degree at Durham University.

"I wake up one morning worried Im poverty stricken," she says. "Then the next morning Im elated – I think what an opportunity, I can concentrate on a subject Im fascinated by."

Being surrounded by people nearly half her age is not a prospect that fazes her. "Im more of a Radio 1 than a Radio 2 person myself. But Im not going to try and recapture my youth."

The mixture of school-leavers and mature students makes for a good balance, she says. "They complement each other."

But money is more of a worry. Sally, who plans to make the 50-plus mile round-trip daily from her Ponteland home to the campus, will fund the venture with part-time jobs. "You have to graft your way through uni. If you want something enough, youll go through rigours to get it."

Her HGV/PSV licence will provide job opportunities. "You can always find driving work."

The Durham course marks a second foray into full-time higher education for Sally, who had a brief spell at Sheffield Poly after A levels. "I didnt have any self-discipline or study skills. I made a complete hash of the whole thing."

Her interest in study, however, was rekindled recently with a part-time course at Newcastle University. "It was very stimulating. I looked forward to going to the library. I looked forward to working on an essay. I did work on time, early even.

"I was afraid that I might not have the necessary self-discipline, but I did get work in on time and I did get good marks."

Sally, whos single, hopes to learn a language while shes at Durham and top up her computer skills. "Keep an eye on being employable."

She wants to get a good qualification, too. "Mature students have to get a 2:1 to justify the poverty and the hard graft."

And the prospect of studying a subject in which shes so interested is a hugely exciting one.

"Some of the modules look fascinating. Youve got to go for it. You only live once."

Durham-bound mature student Sally Milner: "What an opportunity."

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