In Aotearoa New Zealand, the largest growing cohort of Māori engaging in tertiary education at degree level is mature Māori women. For most Māori beginning university there are considerable challenges to achieving a university-level education and qualification. This paper reports on a study that used Kaupapa Māori and Mana Wāhine research approaches to give voice to five mature Māori women who shared aspects of their first year at university, highlighting the cultural dissonance they experienced and how they overcame the challenges they faced as students. Attitudes to education as the result of the colonising effects of assimilation and educational policies contributed to the lives of these wāhine as children and also later in life as tertiary students. This paper contributes to the understanding of tertiary education experiences from mature Māori women’s worldviews and explores the role cultural dissonance plays in educational engagement.