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I went back to uni at 55 to better understand human behaviour

This article appears in: Changing careers, Psychology
Cathryn at NT swimming hole

Darwin-born Cathryn Doney had a professional IT consulting career before she decided to study Psychology at CDU. Cathryn plans to draw on her life experience and skills to succeed. She is aiming to pave her way to a future in research, academia, applied learning, or in a consulting capacity at the junction of technology, organisational design and psychological science. 

Cathryn on a street

What motivated you to take on study?

I’ve been interested in Psychology since I was a teenager, but life happened and I ended up in computer science and organisation development. My work is interesting, but for me it all comes back to people. technology and organisation are about people, and to understand people I need to understand Psychology. I got to a point where I thought, ‘if not now, when?’ So here I am!

What do you like most about studying Psychology with CDU?

Everything! The course content is great, the learning pathways are flexible, I love the library and the services they provide, and there is a ton of support if you need it.

Psychology touches on everything that’s to do with people. It’s not just about counselling. Everything you learn you can apply to yourself and to people around you: the psychology of culture, communication, how memory works, evidence-based parenting, best practice and more. So I like that it’s relevant, it’s current, and it’s really, really interesting!

A semester is only 13 weeks: keep the end in sight

What has been the most challenging aspect of studying for you?

At first, it was confidence – believing I could do it. Then, towards the last half of the semester it was a real struggle to balance full-time study and work.

I’ve worked out strategies to deal with it a bit better, including having a very structured study plan, learning to say “no” to extra work or social activities, and reminding myself that a semester is only 13 weeks: keep the end in sight.

I also made sure to start the my first year the way I wanted to finish it: with good study habits and good marks. I was probably that really annoying student who’s always asking too many questions, but I figure if you don’t know, it’s better to ask.

What is your top study tip?

Use Quizlet – it’s my secret weapon! For every chapter you read, create questions for all the key points and create your own quizzes. Creating your own questions, and testing yourself, is one of the most effective methods of study, and more than twice as effective as reading, highlighting, and reviewing. I learned that in cognitive psychology – very useful!

The other top tip is to keep calm, and keep positive. At least an hour before an exam, stop studying. Breathe, remind yourself of good things you’ve done in the past, have a cup of chai (no alcohol!), look at the trees, and get yourself in a relaxed, positive state ready for the exam.


Cathryn in front of a painting

Never ever think you’re too old

How do you plan to make a difference and contribute to a better future with your degree?

I’m a native of the Northern Territory and passionate about its future, building a strong economy, strong communities, and great outcomes for Territorians. I’m also a passionate advocate for women in technology. No matter how I end up incorporating Psychological Science into my work, these will be the areas where I focus on making a difference.

Lastly, is there anything else you would like to share about your experience studying with CDU?

I would say to people: "don’t wait, don’t wish, and never ever think you’re too old". I was 55 when I went back to study, and there are people even older than me (I know, right?) studying here, and they’re loving what they’re doing. Like the old advertising slogan for the NT – “if you never ever go (to CDU), you’ll never ever know”.

Study Psychology at CDU to find your new world, your way like Cathryn. A world where you’re helping others tackle mental health challenges and finding ways to better understand the human mind.  

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