These days it’s not uncommon to see 40-something year olds (and older) going back to college—or just beginning college for the first time. Some are simply following their dreams, while others return out of necessity. Regardless of the reason, it’s never an easy decision, and there are many things to consider. However, statistics prove that those with college degrees (even a 2-year Associates Degree) earn more than their non-degreed counterparts, so perhaps it’s time to overcome the fears and obtain the education that will help you reach your personal goals.
The number one thing to keep in mind is to find the degree program that is right for you. There are many assessments that can help you pinpoint your area of greatest interest and ability if you’re not sure of what you want to do. These assessments can be found on-line and through the admissions office of any local College or University. Also consider what type of program you’ll need–whether you’ll need a flexible one that offers on-line classes, or whether the structure of the classroom is most right for you.
It’s also important to have a good financial plan. Once you have an idea of the school you’d like to attend, it is helpful to meet with a Financial Aid Advisor early on in the process so they can help you explore your financial options, such as: do you qualify for financial aid (student loans, grants, etc.), are you eligible to apply for scholarships; or are there other payment plans offered. Finances should never dissuade you from getting your education. There are plenty of options out there if you’re truly serious about pursuing a degree.
Another thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that things have probably changed (A LOT) since you were last in school—especially in the area of technology. Everything is computerized nowadays, so even if you’re afraid of it, get yourself a good computer and learn how to use it. If you need help, your best resources are found in any young person you know. Teenagers (and younger) are excellent tutors when it comes to modern technology. They’ll have you surfing the web and using different applications in no time, so don’t let a fear of technology stop you from doing what you want/need to do.
Brush up on your critical thinking, writing, and comprehension skills. These will be a required part of the curriculum in every class you take. Out of practice, you say? That’s ok. There are many refresher classes offered that can help you get back up to speed, and this will benefit you greatly if you’re starting, or restarting your education.
Don’t forget to ask about Life Credits. Believe it or not, the skills and experiences you’ve earned in the “School of Hard Knocks” can earn you college credits. Many colleges will assess credits based upon the proficiencies you’ve learned on your job or elsewhere. These credits will be applied to your degree program requirements, and will help you to complete your education faster.
Lastly, stop telling yourself “I’m too old” or “Nobody goes back to college at my age.” Yes—plenty of people do, and hundreds of thousands of college degrees have been earned by adult learners who are just as busy, motivated, and financially tapped-out as you. Stop making excuses, and stop standing in the way of your own success. Earning a degree may be your ticket to a better, more fulfilling life.
You CAN do it!