Learning is one of the most rewarding things that we can do in life and it’s never too late to study for a degree. Whether you are a career-changer, retiree or a grandparent, going back to school after 50 is often a way to create new challenges for yourself, and provide an opportunity for personal development.
However, the process of choosing a course, applying to universities, and financing your studies can initially feel a little daunting. In fact, the decision to return to college at 50 requires some sacrifices and can be difficult to navigate with work and family.
At first, you might be feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement and you’ll probably need to let go of the fear of not fitting in. You might also find it sometimes harder to study and memorise new information. But try not to be disheartened, there are many resources for adult learners to ease them back into the educational system.
Don’t forget that as a mature student, you have a lot of advantages on which to draw: years of experience in the workplace and often more self-discipline and financial stability than those less mature.
Adult students can in fact always draw from their past and present to bring valuable insights into classroom discussions that traditional students may otherwise lack.
According to Forbes, these days there is a variety of available degree programs, course formats and resources to help you earn a degree at your pace: from coaches who work specifically with older adults to assist them in navigating the higher education world to Colleges that offer courses at night, on weekends or online ( an ideal option if you want to balance work, family, and school).
Thanks to the internet and advanced technology, it’s now a lot easier to access and gain information. This is why studying online has become so popular. So you can still study while juggling adult life and responsibilities.
Once you’ve found an area of interest that will allow you to achieve your desired goals and an accredited University that offers the degree program that you want to pursue, you need to get familiar with the whole process.
“Many organizations and schools now offer scholarships or financial awards to older students to help entice them back to school – states experts at Accredited Schools Online, the online platform that helps students find the accredited program or school that meets their educational and career goals – And many of today’s employers recognize the value that advanced training can have on a workplace and will provide tuition reimbursement for employees who opt to earn advanced training“.
Of course, getting organised and developing a workable routine can make the difference between enjoying your degree and having a stressful time.
To cope with the demands of the day job, domesticity and family, it helps to develop a weekly plan to prioritise your tasks in the limited time available.
“If you’re a working adult, you’re not going to quit your job to go back to school. Of course, some people can and that’s great, but a lot of people can’t – says Rebecca Klein-Collins in her book Never Too Late, The Adult Student’s Guide to College – So you need to find a college that has flexible programs that offer classes after hours or on weekends; or a school that offers blended learning, online and face-to-face, that you can fit into your busy work life. There are other colleges that have shorter terms or terms that start at different points of the traditional school year, so it allows a lot more flexibility for taking on courses when they fit into your life“.
Getting connected with other students is also very important. Many adult learners over 50 can feel isolated as they see the younger, traditional students studying together. However, with social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, there’s no reason you can’t connect with others in your classes, or with someone of your age taking similar courses around the world.
“For a mature student, university life can be isolating, this could be because of the lack of other mature students, so it is important to be flexible and accessible, otherwise, as I found, university life can be a very lonely one – explains Julia C, a Law student from the University Of Reading in the Uk – It is also important to work with others, regardless of the age gap, as this can be beneficial to the learning experience. Looking back on my first year I believe that part of success as a Mature Student is to be flexible and try to make the most of what could be an experience which will change your life. Students are all similar when it comes to studying regardless of their age and gender; we all want the success because failure is not an option“.
So instead of wondering if you’re too old to go back to college, consider that now might be the best time ever for you. You’ve learned how to arrange your day, prioritize and ask for help in a way that enabled you to get it all done.
“Only experience can help you hone those life skills, and your time-management, communication, problem-solving and organizational abilities are critical to your success as a college student – says Elizabeth Gehrig, a senior assessment development specialist in the Center for Learning and Technology at Thomas Edison State University-. They are exactly what you need when you’re outlining a final paper, getting advice from your mentor and collaborating with your classmates on a group project or discussion forum. These are also the skills you’re using on a daily basis at work as you outline a new project, get advice from your boss and collaborate with your colleagues on a new project“.
So feel confident about the skills you bring to the table, whatever the assignment, exam or project because you’ve been through this before. Don’t let your age stop you from achieving your goals.