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

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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