Imagine yourself placed in a class full of high-school pupils; you are to be as one of them. Would you feel out of place? What if you were pushing forty and you were to become a student in a class full of twenty year-olds? Do you think you could fit in? Would you try to? Would you even feel the need to? Such were the questions that I asked myself when anticipating my acceptance to law school as a “mature student”.
After a month experiencing what I could previously only envision, I am now in a position to make a few observations. First, I am not the only “mature” person attending law school at the University of Saskatchewan; there are even a few students who are a year or two my senior. Therefore, I won’t likely be carrying the nickname “Blue” (see the contemporary movie Old School) for the next four years…
If our class demographics are representative of the Canadian norm, then it is true that an increasing number of people are returning to upgrade their human capital later in life. However, the fact remains that the vast majority of students in our class are of comparatively recent vintage.
I must admit that I do not relate to the majority of younger students who seem largely enamoured with sports and social drinking events (the pub-crawl, the bush party, etc.). But wait… I have never been able to relate to people engaged in those endeavours anyway”?particularly amongst those residing within my own age cohort. Actually, I think the entertainment preferences of the students in my class are proportionally representative of society in general. Obviously, my preference for solitude and a good read over others’ entertainment preferences has little or nothing to do with our age differentials.
Law Schools make an affirmative action-based attempt to procure a class demographic representative of society in age, culture, race, experiences, etc… And USask has done an excellent job of it. Bringing together people with diverse backgrounds and experiences benefits the class as a whole, as students can learn form each other and debates are lively. I am thrilled by the fact that many of the young people that I have met have already experienced more than many people twice or thrice their age. One fellow student just returned from several years teaching English in Asia; she wrote her LSAT in Tokyo Japan. Others have backgrounds in teaching, sociology, commerce, psychology, arts, and other professions (or education) too numerous to mention. Obviously, age is not strictly commensurate with experiences.
However, “experiences” and “life experience” can be mutually distinguished. I often find that I am smiling to myself, thinking: “you won’t recognize your present beliefs twenty years from now.” I gained this perspective from – where else? – personal experience. I have yet to meet a fellow student whom I don’t consider to be well-educated, intelligent, and very personable. I like every one of them and I am learning from them and their experiences every day. Already many of them have earned my respect. There is something to be said for being a “mature” student though, as some things can only be learned by living. Infrequently I lament that I didn’t make my way here in my twenties, but in reality I wasn’t even close to ready for this experience back then. Well I am now, and so are my young friends. I can hardly wait to apply further introspective and observational analysis to our mutual law school experiences.
Wayne E. Benedict has a varied career history and strong links to the Canadian labour movement. He is working part-time toward his Bachelor of Human Resources and Labour Relations at Athabasca University. He is a fulltime first-year student of the University of Saskatchewan College of Law. For a more detailed writer bio, see The Voice writers’ feature page in “about the Voice”. If you would like to send article-feedback to Wayne, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org