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Published on June 26, 2020

Why You Are Never Too Old for College (And How To Make It Work)

Why You Are Never Too Old for College (And How To Make It Work)

Today’s jobs require continuous learning. Consider how the current pandemic forced the whole world to switch to remote office work overnight. Suddenly, all in-person meetings went to an online format. Now, many employers are telling their workers to stay home and work remotely

After there is a vaccine, perhaps life at the office will return to the way it was. But it is more likely that there will be more flex time, more staggered schedules, and less travel to see clients. All of this requires learning new skills, and college is a fantastic place to learn these skills.

If you are old enough to work, you are young enough to go to college. The only thing required is curiosity, an active mind, and the desire to learn.

As the world reshapes its ways of working together and industries prepare to adapt, now is a promising time to enter into higher education and become immersed in the incubation of innovative new ideas.

Here are some reasons why you are never too old for college.

1. Going to College Keeps You Competitive

Especially in today’s rocky economy, you could find yourself competing with someone 10 or even 20 years younger. Armed with fresh bachelor degrees, your competitors have an edge unless you get your degree, too, or pursue an advanced degree.

If you find you are at a dead-end in your career, going back to college can help you acquire the skills you need to switch careers. And, just as you are never too old for college, you are never too old to take up an exciting new career.

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Advancements in technology, for example, are making some careers obsolete. If you are in a declining industry—which these days spans the gamut from travel agents to postal workers to mortgage brokers—and foresee an inevitable move to automation, you will be better off retraining for a career better aligned for the future.[1]

Now, it is not just people in their late teens and 20s going to college. Today’s college students are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. Some 40 percent of people obtaining a college degree these days are adults.[2]

Class cohorts of mixed ages can benefit both young and older students alike. Generational attitudes toward life and opportunities can be shared and perspectives of other generations’ viewpoints will broaden your own.

Additionally, when you go on a job interview, you can make the point that you are comfortable working across all generations.

2. Going Back to School as a Bucket List Item

Maybe you got a great job after high school or couldn’t afford to go to college directly after high school. Now, you have decided it is time to earn the degree you have always wanted to pursue. You may be at a crossroads in your current career, ready to take on a new challenge, or looking for more financial stability.

Earning a college degree can be a way to fulfill all of these dreams.

When you feel that the time has come to take the leap into higher education, be sure to look into degree options and their return on investment .[3] Getting a college education can be a time-intensive and pricey proposition, and you will want to make sure the cost and the effort will pay you dividends in the future.

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Or, if you simply want to augment your knowledge with a few skill-based courses, you are never too old to go to college to hone your expertise. Given how many of today’s careers are rapidly evolving, it is to your credit—and your company’s benefit—that you take initiative in improving your skills to keep up with the economy of the future.

Additionally, you are never too old for college classes to expand your interest and your knowledge in an avocation. Several colleges and universities offer not-for-credit courses on an array of topics—from current events to genres of literature to music appreciation and more.

3. Do the Legwork to Make It Work

Know in advance what skills you are after, and research the type of certification you need. Make sure the schools that you are investigating are accredited.[4] Often, a community college can provide a certificate program that will be all that you need to put your new career goals into motion.

Look into the requirements for admission. If it has been decades since you took a college admission test—as in an ACT or SAT—you may need to take one again. Be sure to make use of the online practice tests to help you prepare. But you may also be able to skip this step (some colleges are waving these requirements in light of the current pandemic).

You may also need to call up your high school and request that they send a transcript to the colleges to which you are applying.

Higher education institutions have several options for pursuing degrees with scheduling flexibility—through online or evening courses, accelerated-track programs, or self-paced programs. And while you are never too old for college, you are too for dorm living.

Adult students—often labeled “nontraditional students”—in some cases, may never need to set foot on campus. Depending on the nature of your degree, you could feasibly complete it entirely online. However, if you are interested in the sciences, for example, chances are you will need to complete lab work on campus.

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Make full use of the institution’s resources and particularly of those serving in the roles of admissions counselors, academic advisors, and financial aid advisors. They offer a well of resources and are there to make your transition into college easier.

If the college offers you the option of having a peer mentor, accept the offer. A peer mentor has already navigated the complexities of adjusting to college and can provide you with insider tips.

As an adult learner, career advancement may well be your key motivator in going back to school. Be on the lookout for any opportunities that can bolster your resume or expand your business network as you immerse yourself in your program.
For example, it may mean that you team with a professor on a research project—and hopefully, add your name among the authors. Or, it could mean presenting a paper at a conference related to your prospective industry. Take on the added work to stand out or make a positive impression.

All these stretch projects can help when you ultimately begin looking for employment with your newly minted degree.

How to Hold Down Your Job While Attending College?

If you intend to straddle the demands of both work and school—which is the usual scenario for adults earning a college degree—you will need to do some careful planning. Recognize that as an adult learner it may take you longer to complete some of the assignments. You will have to organize your schedule to find the time to study.

First, determine whether you can cut back to part-time work and go to school full-time. If you can make happen, you will be able to finish your degree more quickly.

But if you need to maintain a full-time job, find out in advance the minimum course load for enrollment. While part-time enrollment can make your work life more manageable, it may not allow you to be eligible for financial aid.

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It is best to tell your coworkers and boss that you are going back to school—unless it is your intention to switch careers. This will show them that you have the drive to better yourself. When they know what you are juggling, they may be more understanding when you have to leave work early to take an exam.

Some employers have tuition-reimbursement programs to help with paying for the cost. Check with Human Resources to find out if your company offers any reimbursement for attending college.

It Is Never Too Late to Pursue More Education

The attitude that someone could be too old for college is outdated. Fortunately, students attending college in their later years are dispelling these old assertions.

Unlike some students in their early 20s, older students know what they are after, and are better focused on attaining it. If you are an older student, it is more likely than not that you are on a mission and no one can dissuade you.

You are never too old to create a life you love.

More Tips to Help You Go Back to School

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Vicky Oliver

Author of 6 best-selling books on job-hunting and job interview questions, business etiquette, frugalista style, advertising, and office politics.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed, and exhausted. Therefore, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, it’s time to do something about it.

Here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm, leaving you calmer, in control, and a lot less stressed at work.

1. Write Everything Down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when work feels overwhelming is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s occupying your thoughts[1].

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind, write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind.”

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will help you stop feeling overwhelmed at work. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have emptied your head, go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. You can learn how to create a more meaningful to-do list here.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago to help when work feels overwhelming. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and we humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take[2]:

When feeling overwhelmed at work, use Parkinson's Law.

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad. It’s more wishful thinking than bad judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage when we’re feeling overwhelmed at work. If you have estimated that to write five important emails will take ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is that you put yourself under a little time pressure, and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time, so it plays tricks on us, and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our team members to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening, and we get more focused and more work done. This will help when work feels overwhelming.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos to avoid getting overwhelmed at work. Schedule time for each task, especially high priority tasks, while also grouping together similar tasks. This will help relieve stress and anxiety in your daily work life.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done, and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer, and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one[3]. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend, or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss or a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away and will only make you feel more overwhelmed at work. You need to make a decision to deal with it, and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved.

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed, and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend about the problem.

    He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem, and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I pay a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first was: don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second: there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we are feeling overwhelmed at work (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

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    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

    It also means that, rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible, and you can make decisions about what to do about them.

    Often, it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be that you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    When work feels overwhelming, it’s not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work. It can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    It’s easy to feel like you have too much on your plate, but there are things you do to make it more manageable. 

    Make a decision, even if it’s just talking to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution.

    When you follow these strategies, you can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Josefa nDiaz via unsplash.com

    Reference

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