I recently retired. Would I be crazy to go to college to study English?

Carpe diem: you are never too old to follow your dreams

During lockdown I opened a copy of Exploring English I had on my bookshelf. Before I realised it, over a few weeks I had read it again from cover to cover. Like many of my generation, college was never an option. I’ve had time and space recently to re-evaluate my life and am retired with a good pension. Would I be crazy to consider studying English in college at my age?

We all only get one life. Your love of English may have lain dormant for over 35 years, but now it’s time to blossom and grow. Imagine the richness you will bring to your studies based on a life fully lived, through the ups and downs of family and work.

Of course, as you suggest, you might feel a bit like a fish out of water among all those school leavers – but let me assure you, as someone who worked with students in UCD for many years, the mature adult in a class is often the catalyst around whom many younger students gravitate, seeking advice and support.

Mature applicants (those aged 23 or older) still have just over a week to submit an application to the CAO (cao.ie) if they wish to start into an undergraduate degree programme in September 2023. Applications close at 5pm on February 1st and cost €45. If you have not chosen your top course, you can add to your application up to March 1st at 5pm for an additional €10.


If you sat the Leaving Cert before 1985, you will need to source your results from your previous school or the State Examinations Commission (SEC) in Athlone. If it is post-1985, the CAO will be able to source your results from the SEC once you have an exam number.

There is a very comprehensive mature applications section on the online CAO handbook, available through their website.

Colleges will consider your suitability to meet the academic challenges of a degree programme, or through a more supported process via an access programme or gradual accumulation of credits

Key to this will be your short “statement of interest”, which allows you to outline your educational goals. There is a maximum of about 300 words, so brevity is essential. You will also be required to briefly indicate any “hobbies or interests” that might be relevant to your course interests.

As a mature applicant you may need to forward some supporting documentation to the CAO offices in Galway within 10 days of applying online to the CAO. Use registered post and do not post any originals, only photocopies, as the CAO does not return documentation.

You may well have 40-plus years in advance of you, so seize the day and follow your dreams.