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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.

How to Decline a Job Offer Gracefully (With Email Examples) Why You Are Never Too Old for College (And How To Make It Work) How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples) 13 Ways to Demonstrate Integrity in the Workplace How to Write an Effective Meeting Agenda (With Templates)

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Last Updated on August 3, 2020

How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

To make goals or not to make goals, that is the question.

On the one hand, if you make goals without asking yourself what your true strengths and values are first, you could put yourself on the fast track to disappointment. On the other hand, if you don’t set any intentions at all, you could bounce through life like a pinball doing what others want without accomplishing what’s really important to YOU.

Fear not. Here are 8 powerful ways to be goal oriented using the ENVISION method (Endgame – Nesting – Value – Inspiration – Superpowers – Intimates – Openess – Nourishment) that will help you create a successful meaningful life:

1. Start with the End in Mind

To ensure that you make goals that matter, stand back and examine your life from a broader perspective. Think about the happy ending you would like to achieve, the “E” in ENVISION, and work backwards to determine how you’ll get there.

For example, if you’d like to generate goals for yourself over the next five years, write down where you’d like to be professionally and personally five years from now. Let nothing hold you back. Just keep that pen moving and see where it leads you.

Where do you see yourself in relation to work? What’s your family life like? What type of friends and social support group do you have? What are your hobbies? How is your health?

Next, ask yourself where you would like to be one year from now relative to what you’d like to accomplish in five years. Write the answer out in enough detail so that it seems real to you. Then ask yourself where you’d like to be three months from now. Be specific.

What about one month? One week? What one small action could you take this week to come closer to achieving your master plan?

If this exercise seems daunting, don’t worry. It’s actually a fun and eye-opening way to line up your goals with the bigger picture of your life so that you won’t waste your precious time on passing fancies and other people’s agendas.

I’ve used it with thousands of workshop participants who have rocked their lives. It will work for you, too!

2. Create Nested Goals

The most efficient way to achieve your goals is to nest action items inside them, the first “N” in ENVISION. Get specific about when, where, and how you’ll reach your objectives by breaking them down into subgoals.

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Make your aspirations challenging but not too hard. Each one should be measurable. Instead of writing “I’d like to write a book,” try setting an intention such as “I’d like to write two hours a day four times a week” and mark space on your calendar for it.

Make your aims positive. Instead of “I’d like to quit my stinking job,” think about what a desirable career would look like. Try “I’d like to develop educational toys with like-minded people in a virtual office” and then send out your résumé to companies with matching job openings.

Come up with alternative pathways to your goals so that if one doesn’t work, you’ll already have plan B in place. It’s normal to fail and experience setbacks. This goal-oriented strategy will help you move forward on the pathway to your dreams no matter what happens.

3. Get Clear on Your Values

Before you start setting goals, it’s important to ask yourself what you really value, the “V” in ENVISION.

In my creativity workshops, I’ve found that most people don’t get what they want in life because they’re playing out someone else’s idea of who they should be.

The number one regret of people on their deathbed is that they did not live their dreams. Don’t let that be you. To avoid living a life full of shoulds and obligations, make a wish list. Jot down what you really want and put all the reasons you think you can’t have it aside.

These aspirations can range from the material (such as a new car) to the psychological (high self-worth), to the spiritual (inner peace), to — well — pretty much anything you can think of. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy.

Giving yourself permission to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to getting it. Be sure your goals speak to your soul.

4. Make Time for Inspiration

As you put your goals together, think about how you can find downtime to receive inspiration in your life, the first “I” in ENVISION.

Americans put in the longest work hours and get the shortest paid vacation time in the developed world. Those of us “lucky” enough to have jobs have added another day to our work week because we now check work emails and calls from home. It’s no wonder we try to stuff everything we can’t do at work into our off hours.

But the second regret of the dying is that they wished they didn’t work so hard. Research shows that people who engage in creative hobbies and side projects are happier and flourish more in life because they can generate new ideas and express themselves uniquely.[1] Feeling energized and playful, they get more done in less time, become better problem solvers, and receive better evaluations at work.[2]

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Make balance a priority in your goal-oriented life. Start a hobby or side project to rejuvenate yourself after the workday ends. Paint, play hockey or try a new dinner recipe. Doing something you love for just a couple of hours a week can significantly improve your life. Like steering a ship slightly to the right, over time you’ll arrive at the destination YOU desire.

5. Form Goals Around Your Superpowers

Research shows that people are more likely to succeed when they develop their natural strengths, the “S” in ENVISION, than work on their weaknesses.

If you don’t know where your true talents lie, try using assessment tools such as Gallup’s CliftonStrengths and psychologist Martin Seligman’s Character Strengths to discover your personal strengths. You can also find your superpowers by answering these questions.

Each of us has a unique purpose in life. Most of us don’t realize it, though, because we’ve been pressured to conform to someone else’s idea of who we should be. Fear of change and staying in our comfort zones stunts our growth. Stretch yourself and take a risk if you want to find out what makes your heart sing.

Make an action plan to create a life in which you express your superpowers on a regular basis, whether it be through your vocation, a meaningful side project, a worthy cause, mindful parenting, volunteer work, or whatever else sparks your interest. This goal-oriented strategy guarantees you’ll thrive at work and at home.

6. Make Time for Intimates

When setting your goals, be sure to carve out time for your intimates, the second “I” in ENVISION. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “intimate” as “a very close friend or confidant: an intimate friend.”

The fourth regret of the dying is that they were too busy to see their friends much.[3] Make it a point to connect with real friends, people you can turn to for sympathy when you need it, confide in about most things, and be your true self around.

A few weeks ago, I suffered from an “eye stroke” and suddenly lost vision in my left eye. I’d moved to Portland nine months before and only knew one busy family I didn’t want to overburden. I was super lonely.

Because of my vision loss, I needed to ask for rides from people I barely knew to attend meetings of some of the groups I’d joined. These acquaintances are now turning into friends. I couldn’t have made it without their help and the support of friends I’ve known for years scattered around the globe.

A new Cigna study shows that nearly half of Americans feel alone or left out.[4] According to Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young University, the detrimental effects of loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.[5] She warns that:

“Loneliness and social isolation are linked to around a 30 percent increased risk of having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease.”[6]

I should know.

Being with your friends is not only good for your soul, but it is also essential for your health and well-being. Put it in your goals.

7. Open Up Emotionally

When crafting your goals, be sure to include ways you can open up about your feelings, the “O” in ENVISION. The third regret of the dying is that they wish they’d had the courage to express their true feelings instead of stuffing their emotions down to keep peace with others. To lead a fulfilling life, it’s important to prioritize talking and behaving honestly with others instead of hiding your true feelings.

According to Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps,[7]

“Start with identifying your emotions (e.g. angry, hurt) and understanding what triggered you to feel this way.”

She recommends you try to understand your feelings and practice self-compassion for having them. When you’re calmer, try to understand the person who upset you. What are their emotions? What triggered them? This will help you respect and care about yourself and the other person.

If there is someone you need to talk to or a situation you’d like to resolve, honor your feelings. Whether it be writing a letter or making a phone call or visiting someone you haven’t seen in years, put it on your goal list. Be sure to meet in a safe environment if you’re confronting someone who has abused or harmed you. Tell the truth as you see it and try to be kind.

Sharing your genuine feelings may bring you closer together and it may not. It doesn’t really matter how the other person responds. What matters is that you expressed your true self, that you did it for YOU. Make emotional honesty a habit by adding it to your goals.

8. Nurture Happiness

To be more goal oriented and succeed in life, nurture the people and activities that bring you joy, the final “N” in ENVISION.

The fifth regret of people on their deathbed is that they wished they’d let themselves be happier. Instead, they stayed stuck in old patterns and pretended to be content when they weren’t.

If you don’t like your job, make it a goal to look for a new position that aligns your paycheck with your purpose. If you are entrepreneurially-minded, think about turning your passion project into a business you love. If you have multiple passions, consider pursuing a slash career (e.g., copywriter/coder/career coach). According to Forbes Magazine, many companies are beginning to see the value in hiring employees who have side gigs that differ from their main vocations. You’ll bring in multiple streams of income and experience more meaning and fulfillment to your life.[8]

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If you are unhappy with your marriage or romantic relationship, set a goal to do something about it. Do you need to go to counseling? Do you need to move on? If you’re on the fence about whether to keep a friend in your life, be goal oriented about getting closure on the issue. Take care of yourself in the process by taking yoga classes or getting a much-needed massage.

Whatever you do, make it a goal to show compassion as often as you can because it will boost your happiness.[9] Dr. Amit Sood defines “compassion” as:

“Your ability to experience others’ feelings — from joy to sorrow — with a desire to help.”

By helping others in need, you not only can decrease their suffering, but you can also make yourself happier than you could by directly pursuing activities to make you happy.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the ENVISION method shows you how to blend lessons from the five regrets of the dying with effective goal setting techniques that center around your strengths to become goal oriented. It includes:

  • Endgame — Asking yourself where you want to be in 5 years, 1 year, now.
  • Nesting — Creating positive, specific, measurable subgoals.
  • Values — Building your goals around what truly matters to you.
  • Inspiration — Making time for meaningful hobbies and side projects.
  • Superpowers — Orienting your life plan around your unique strengths.
  • Intimates — Spending time with close friends and family.
  • Openness — Being honest about your feelings.
  • Nourishment — Nurturing people and activities that bring you joy.

It may seem like a lot of work at first glance but, in truth, it should only take you about an hour to piece together a list of goals following these guidelines. Why not trade an hour of watching television or engaging in social media to do this instead? You can always get online and watch TV later to reward yourself for becoming more goal oriented.

You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by exploring what would make your heart sing. It’s worth investing in yourself this way. You have the power to create a life that totally rocks by setting the intention to do so. As the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote,

“What you seek is seeking you.”

Be more goal driven!

More About Goals Getting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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