If you’re older than the average college student when you go back to school, you might wonder if you’re going to fit in. In fact, people return to school at many different ages, and it’s unlikely that you will be the oldest person in all of your classes. Even if you are, there’s no reason this has to negatively affect the quality of your experience. In fact, there are a number of pros to going back to school later in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.
Focus and Maturity
Some people deliberately put off going to college because they feel like they aren’t ready. Others start and drop out after finding out the same thing. As a nontraditional student, you are bringing life and work experience into the classroom with you, and this means that you actually stand to get more out of your education than your peers. While many younger people may have simply assumed that they would go to college and are there without giving it much thought, when adults go back, they usually have a specific focus and strong motivation. This will be helpful to you.
Access to Funding
You might assume that most of the funding for college is aimed at younger people, but this is not the case. While some scholarships might narrowly focus on recent high school graduates, you will generally have access to the same or similar resources, including federal loans. In fact, there is at least one situation in which you might have an advantage, and that is in taking out student loans from a private lender. Because you have had time to build up a credit record, you may be offered more options with better interest rates than someone just out of high school would be. In addition, there may be grants and scholarships specifically aimed at nontraditional students.
You are also more likely to have financial resources that you can draw on when you are older. If you are a senior, your school may offer free or reduced tuition. Another possibility is that your employer may contribute toward your educational expenses, especially if it is related to your job. Finally, in some circumstances, you might be able to skip some classes altogether if you have the knowledge to test out of them or the school you’re attending offers credit for life and work experience. That will mean one more class that you don’t have to pay for.
The younger students around you will be dealing with a lot of new things at once. The vast majority of them are living on their own for the first time, and they may be juggling roommate issues, relationship issues, budgeting, and many other concerns. That’s not to say that they will have more concerns than you do but that you have more experience in dealing with those concerns along with everything else that’s going on in your life. You’ve had years to develop an adult resilience that they are only at the beginning of. In addition, you’re unlikely to be under as much stress when you have a test or difficult assignment looming. It’s not that you don’t take them seriously, but you’ll have an easier time putting them in perspective compared to some of the stresses you’ve faced in your adult life.
Knowing Your Work Habits
It might have been a long time since you had to study for a test–or maybe not, and maybe you’ll need a quick refresh on tips for effective studying depending on the nature of your job. Either way, as a nontraditional student, while you might assume that being back in the classroom will be a big adjustment, you actually have a strong advantage, which is that you are already familiar with your work style. You don’t have to spend time learning what works best for you. By now, you have mastered time management or you at least have a good handle on it. You will also know what kind of environments are best for you to work in when you are at your best and how to get the most work done efficiently.
Rapport With Professors
It would be inappropriate to assume that you’ll get along better with your professors than your younger classmates simply because you are closer to them in age, but at the same time, many professors will appreciate your life experience and maturity. You’ll also be able to interact with them professionally from the start while some of your classmates will still be making a transition from seeing their professors more as parental figures like their teachers were. It’s a good idea to try to stop off and see each of your professors during their office hours at the beginning of the semester and introduce yourself. Keep in mind as well that they are there as resources. If there are aspects of transitioning back into the classroom that you are struggling with, they may be able to help you.