Older and Wiser: 7 Reasons Why College is a Great Fit for Older Students
The last time you stepped into a classroom, you were battling a stubborn
outbreak of acne, the brown bag lunch in your locker was stolen, and you were
content with a “D” on your final English exam. When you walked across the stage
at graduation, you were done with the banal halls of education. You thumbed your
nose at higher learning. Or, maybe, college was just beyond your reach for more
You entered the workforce taking a minimum wage job, worked your way up the
chain of command, earned greater responsibilities and higher pay. No matter your
efforts, however, you struggled to get ahead. Opportunities outside of work, and
within, slipped through your fingers because you were lacking a simple document
that catapulted someone else into the position of your desire. You were missing
a college degree.
You have considered going back to school, but feel you are too old. You are
out of practice or too intimidated to seriously consider a return.
Here are 7 reasons why it is time to change your mind.
- You are not alone.
If you are stuck in the antiquated mindset that college is for fresh-faced
teenagers straight out of high school, toss those beliefs to the curb, and
take another look. The number of non-traditional students is on the rise.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics there are 17.6
million undergraduates. Thirty-eight percent of those enrolled in higher
education are over the age of 25. Non-traditional students include single
moms, older students, adults looking to change careers, or any other
situation not recognized as the traditional path. In today’s college
environment, you will find a diverse population of traditional and
non-traditional students alike. Older students will have no trouble finding
classmates close to their age. This is particularly true for general
education requirements such as English, College Algebra and History. As you
begin to take upper-level courses, same-aged peers may thin out, but by
then, you will have already proven college is exactly where you belong.
- Colleges offer flexibility.
As technology and student needs have evolved, so have college offerings.
Many classes can be taken in the evenings and weekends to accommodate
working schedules. Through on-line courses and distance learning, many
requirements can be met while never having to commute to a physical campus.
Additionally, colleges have developed satellite campuses in various cities
in the same region. Satellite campuses or branch campuses are detached from
the main university and offer accessibility to a larger number of students.
Finally, intercession courses, and block courses are available as well.
These courses generally require longer days, or more days in class per week,
but can be completed in fewer weeks that traditional courses.
- Colleges provide options besides degrees.
The traditional paths of two- and four-year degrees are no longer the only
options provided at college campuses. Today, it is possible to receive
training and certification in a variety of occupations such as accounting,
biotechnology and pharmacy technician without investing money in general
education requirements. Certifications take less time to earn than do
degrees, are far less costly and open occupational doors that would
otherwise remain closed. In some cases, employers are willing to foot the
cost for certification. Check with yours.
- Real life is credit worthy.
Surprise! You have lived your life! In some distance learning programs, life
experiences can pave the way to credits earned. Perhaps you have lived
overseas while mastering a second language such as Japanese or German. Or
you have been trained at work in Microsoft Office, fully understanding all
of its applications. Potentially, you could earn credits without taking a
To find out if life experience qualifies as earned credits, send in your
transcripts as well as a description of your life experience. After evaluation,
the college will help you design a plan to earn a diploma. This plan will
include exams, demonstrating your life experience knowledge, and completing
Tips on choosing a program in distance learning:
- Make certain the program is regionally accredited and recognized by both
the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher
Education Accreditation (CHEA). Most brick-and-mortar universities receive
the same accreditation.
- Contact the school’s guidance office for direction in applying for
- Provide a portfolio, upon request, that proves experience. The portfolio
should include resumes, job descriptions, work samples, references,
certificates and awards.
Before choosing this distance learning, research it well. If you are promised
a degree based entirely on real life experiences, you are likely dealing with a
non-reputable entity designed to churn out easily attained diplomas. These
diplomas will hold no value in the eyes of employers.
- Earning potential is increased.
Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce estimates college
graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn 84% more over their lifetime than do
high school graduates. Unless you are one of the lucky few, how hard you
work will not be reflected in returned income if you have not obtained a
To better illustrate why, suppose a group of five men agree to race one
another. Four of the men come equipped with high tech shoes, spandex attire and
a personal coach who has trained them for the last 4 years. The fifth man shows
up in loose fitting shorts and t-shirt, canvas shoes and a bag full of donuts.
When the whistle blows, although it is possible, it is unlikely the fifth man
will win the race. The odds are stacked against him. Despite being willing to
participate, he is unprepared. He is lacking the proper equipment and training.
Improving your earning potential is no different. Up until now, you have been
willing to run the race, but you have not been fully prepared. The odds have
been against you. You are competing with colleagues who are better trained and
better equipped. You have survived this long with few skills and fewer
opportunities. Imagine the potential of earnings when a degree shifts the odds
in your favor.
Education builds confidence.
Going to college can be a scary proposition no matter who you are. For first
time entrants, regardless of age, doubts can creep in. For others who have
some college experience, re-entering college can be equally intimidating.
Anxiety is natural. It is also fleeting. With each college credit earned,
you will have tangible evidence of accomplishment. Along with meeting
educational requirements, interpersonal, speaking and management skills will
be strengthened. Your confidence will build. Remember, adult students are
often the best students. Motivated by real world experience, adult students
set the standard in the classroom.
- You deserve the same success as your peers.
If you feel you have not
lived up to your potential, it is easy to compare your achievements with
your current circle of friends as well as people from your past. It takes
one high school reunion to magnify the gap between classmates who went to
college and those who opted for a direct entrance into the workforce. It
might cause you to question skipping college altogether. You might wonder,
“Is it too late?”
The opportunity to attend college has no expiration date. It is never too
late. If anyone deserves an education, a more secure future and occupational
opportunities, it is you.
Earning a degree can open so many doors for the non-traditional
student. Now more than ever, colleges are adapting their curriculum and class
structure to accommodate students who require greater flexibility. If you want
to change fields, enter college as a first-time student or earn those last few
credits that will secure a degree, what are you waiting for? College is a great
fit for you!
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