We’re in our 30s, but that doesn’t mean that you haven’t thought about going back to school or starting it for the first time. It can be really intimidating. Who wants to sit in a class with a bunch of stuck up ‘kids’ that just graduated highschool and think they know everything, but really know nothing? Yeah, that can be rough. But if you have really considered it, you should really go for it. My husband is finishing his bachelors degree and he is 34 years old. Sure, he has admitted that it can be rough being in the same class as young kids, but he also finds it more rewarding now that he can appreciate what he is learning. He is not just getting through college to get it over with. He is really taking his classes and applying them to his current job.
If you have always wanted to go back, and it has always been a dream, don’t get discouraged and let your dream slip. We are still young gals and you could start a whole new career and have plenty of years to enjoy what you really wanted to do. Besides, at this age, we can still pull off being in our 20s, so who’s to know how old you are?
College is no longer dominated with people in their late teens and early twenties. With the internet, especially, becoming a student for the first time, picking up a new degree, or resuming your education is much easier and much more common than it ever has been.
Go into your education program believing you will succeed. Otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up to fail. If you really have considered going back to school, here are some things to consider.
1. You won’t be the oldest one
According to the Census Bureau, students 35 or older comprised 15% of people enrolled in college in 2007. They made up 7 percent of the full-time college students and 36% of those attending part time. Adult education increased to 44 percent in 2005.
You may be surprised at the age range and find yourself in a class with students anywhere from 18 to 88 years old, possibly older!
2. This time around, you will be better at it
When you’re 30 instead of 18, you have a much better idea what you want out of your degree and out of life. You can count on being more driven because you know what you’d like to achieve. When you were young, you may have not known what you wanted to study, but are well equipped to do a good job now and know what you want from life.
3. The classroom has gone digital
If you are in your 30s, then when you graduated high school there was nothing around like there is now in this digital age. It was unheard of to bring your laptop to class unless you were really pretentious. iphones or smartphones were not invented yet and I used dial up internet for the last 2 years of college. It would take me 3 days to write a paper! A lot has changed. So on the bright side, these technologies make things easier to take notes, study, and research.
4. You have options
Nowadays, you can attend school online, sit in a classroom, or take advantage of the blended approach, which has the best of both worlds. Just make sure that if you attend a college online, that it is accredited with the US Department of Education. You don’t want to do all that work, then find out later you were not hired for a job because they found out your school was not legit.
5. You can get financial assistance
If you’re going to school part time or enrolled in a trade school, you may still qualify for financial aid. Find out more at www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov. There is also a chance you could get a scholarship. Even if it has been too long to use some of your grades or test scores, usually after a semester or two of good grades can get you qualified for the next year.
6. Make use of your downtime
When you’re commuting to work or school, read your textbook. When you’re driving, listen to lectures on your iPod. When you’re waiting in line at the supermarket, review flashcards. Study for that test when the kids are taking a nap or at a play date. Make every minute count.
7. You will be appreciated and understood
Professors appreciate students with life experience, especially those who are motivated to work hard and put their education to use. Professors will know that if you are coming back at this age, that you are serious about your studies to make this decision to come back and you will be appreciated.
8. It’s a smart move in a recession
Though a recession might not seem like a good time to spend money on school, it’s actually the perfect time. In addition to its personal benefits, education can put you ahead of the running when you’re competing for a coveted position.
9. You may be able to get credit for your life experiences
Through prior learning assessment, you may get college credit for experiences such as corporate training, experiential learning, travel, volunteer work, and more. There are also ways to test out of the class if you have the knowledge like math or English.
10. It will be a juggling act
Now that you’re an adult with responsibilities other than schoolwork, it can be more difficult to focus on your education. Expect the challenge so you’ll be prepared to work through it. You don’t have to go full time if it doesn’t fit your schedule. Even taking a class a semester will get you to your goal eventually.
11. You may be eligible for tuition reimbursement
If your education program is related to your job, your employer may reimburse you for all or part of your tuition, which makes your education goals that much more attainable. Some companies will pay for your school even if you are not a full time employee. Check with your HR rep to see what their policy is.
12. Other students will look up to you
You have the opportunity to be a role model to younger students who gravitate toward you because of your life and career experience. Be an example to them by persevering in earning your degree.
13. You will need some computer skills
Chance are you already know your way around a computer, but if you don’t, now’s the time to enlist a friend to help you brush up on your skills. You don’t have to be a tech genius, but you will need to understand e-mail and basic software applications. You can also enroll in a basic computer class and simultaneously fulfill that requirement.
14. The outcomes may be more immediate
At 30, it’s likely you already have a job and a career track, so your degree may translate into more immediate outcomes like a promotion or the ability to make a successful career switch. You can also take what you are learning and show your boss how it can apply to your job for success.
15. You will need a strong support system
If you have a family, make sure they’re on board with your taking time away from them now to build a better future with them. If you’re living with friends, make sure their activities won’t distract you from your studies.
16. Don’t be afraid of student loans
Taking out loans can be intimidating, but an education loan is an investment in your future. And education has proven to produce a strong return on investment. Most loan companies will work with you for a payment that will work in your budget and a low interest rate. Just make sure you research. Besides, the loan payoff doesn’t start until 6 months after you graduate.
17. You will need to work harder
More adult responsibilities mean you’ll need to study harder in less time. But many students find they actually work better with less time to stretch out their assignments.
18. You may have to ask for help
Take people up on their offers to help by asking them to watch your kids, walk your dog, mow your lawn, go grocery shopping, etc. When you give people the opportunity to support you, you’re enabling them to contribute to your success.
19. Student services will be available for you
Many schools offer support services targeted to busy adults. Take advantage of the counseling and study skills sessions provided and allow the school counselors to help you keep you and your studies on track.
20. Treat it like a job
Yes, school is like a job. You have to make it a priority, and you may even have to put in overtime. Viewing it as less than a real job will only do you a disservice.
21. You will need to reach out
As an adult student, you will probably have to make more of an effort to reach out to your classmates. But these relationships can help when you feel alone in your education endeavor.
22. It will pay off
According to the Census Bureau, in 2008, workers with a bachelor’s degree earned about $26,000 more on average than workers with a high school diploma. Education has a proven payoff.