Why There's No Such Thing as ''Too Old to Go Back to School''


You may think most college students are in their teens and early twenties. But according to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, about 40% of college students are over the age of 25. Find out why going back to school has no age limit.

You Have Great Reasons to Go Back to School

There are many motivations for going back to school in your later years. Whether you need to change the course of your career, amp up your earnings, or just gain the self-satisfaction of finishing your diploma, you have valid reasons to return to your studies.

Changing your Career

You may find yourself at a career crossroads. You might be facing a forced career change, such as getting laid off with dwindling professional prospects. Or you might have gotten into one field, but always had a passion for a different kind of work. In either case, there's a good possibility that going back to school is one of several steps to a successful career transition.

Learning to Increase Earnings

You might love your current career, and want to stay in the same field until you retire. However, you've seen colleagues with degrees or professional certifications move up the earnings ladder. Your motivation for returning to school might be earning a degree to earn a larger salary.

Finishing Up an Incomplete Degree

You may not have a career-based motivation to go back to school. You might have started school years ago, but your life took a different path than college graduation. Perhaps you're now in a better position to complete the degree you once started.

Your Life Experience Can Give You a Head Start

You have lived a few more years than the typical college student, and that can help you save time and money now. There are a few ways that your decades of life experience can get you more quickly to your academic goals.

Older students attend class in both traditional classrooms and online.

If you are going back to school to finish your degree, you may be able to transfer credits from your previous college experience.

Even if you've never attended college or a certificate program before, you have probably been in the workforce. You may have served in the military at some point. In addition to the life lessons these experiences taught you, they may also qualify you for college credit.

Some institutions may require that you take what's called a ''Challenge Exam'' to get credit for your existing knowledge, such as the College Board's College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). Administered for over thirty topics, exams such as CLEP give colleges and universities a standardized way to measure your knowledge.

If you're on active duty in the military, or (in certain branches) a civilian military employee or military spouse, you may be eligible to take CLEP exams for free under Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES). For veterans, the G.I. Bill may offer planning and financial assistance as you go back to school.

You Have More Self-Confidence

As you've gotten older, you've gained both wisdom and self-confidence. While the thought of plunging into a youth-oriented academic environment may give you pause, your age can be an advantage.

Rather than feeling isolated from younger students, remember that you can learn things from each other. Chances are that you have worked for many years in a multi-generational environment—so you already know how to relate to different age groups. The younger students in your class probably don't have that extensive experience.

You may also find students closer to your own age, with whom you have a lot in common.

Learners of all ages can benefit from study groups.

To make the most out of your back-to-school adventure, look for study groups or social clubs to join. Even if you're pursuing an online degree, you can still reach out to your fellow students in classroom discussions or via email.

You Can Benefit from Lifelong Learning

The world of education has changed since your earlier student days. Take advantage of all the new possibilities that higher education now has to offer.

Enjoying Flexible Choices

Educational programs offer more flexibility than ever to help you fit learning into your life. Whether you try a traditional university, a few courses at your local community college, or a certification program, newer technologies such as online learning bring the classroom to you.

Older learners can take advantage of newer technologies to go back to school.

Keeping Keen

Going back to school can do much more for you than just bolster your career success or increase your earning potential: Being in school can help you stay younger.

Learning new things strengthens our memories and keeps us sharp. Dr. Angela Catic, an Assistant Professor at the Huffington Center on Aging (part of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston), cites benefits to both social and cognitive health for older adults who return to school.

Rediscovering Wonder

Not only does education stimulate the brain, it also reignites our sense of wonder. Going back to school reminds us that there are still exciting things to discover—no matter how old we are, or how much we've already learned from life.

By Michelle Baumgartner
November 2017
college postsecondary education options

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