There are many reasons why an 18-year-old doesn’t go straight to college after graduating high school, and there are many more reasons why they never get around to it. Maybe you’re someone who never made it to college, and you’re now considering if you should take the leap and go to college. You’re probably wondering:
Am I too old for college? You’re not too old to start college as a freshman or to go back and finish your degree. Whether you’re in your 20s getting a “late” start or in your 50s looking for a career change, you can go to college and not have to worry about being too old.
If this is a fear that’s preventing you from going back, continue reading. This article will discuss why you’re not too old to begin your higher education and how to decide if going to school is the right decision for you.
You’re Not Too Old
Every age group seems to have their own reasons for thinking they’re too old to go to college. 20-year-olds fear that they missed their window because all of their friends are graduating by the time they’re thinking about starting. Meanwhile, there are 60-year-olds thinking they’re too old to start college because all of their friends are retiring.
Here are a few concerns from each age group, as well as some benefits your age will bring to your education.
20-year-olds, whether they’re 22 or 29, fear that they’re too old to start school because they think they’re a step behind their peers. As you get later into your 20s, you’re typically expected to have a degree or two under your belt along with a steady job that you’re working your way upwards in.
This isn’t a rule carved in stone, however. Life takes twists and turns, and sometimes you just can’t go the same pace as everyone else, or you simply lack the interest to do it.
Interest is on your side. The difference between starting college when you’re 18 and starting when you’re 25 is that at 25, you’ve had time to decide what you want to do with your life. When you’re 18, you go to college because that’s what you’re “supposed to do.” In your 20s, however, you know what you’re interested in, and you have an idea of what you want to study.
Someone in their 30s might think they’re too old because supposedly, the only 30-year-olds in college are on the brink of earning their PhDs. That’s not the case, however. In fact, a study shows that in the 2011-2012 school year, 40% of the enrolled students were between the ages of 25 and 39 years old. 12% of students were 40 years old or older.
Of course, there are a couple more reasons for you to worry about going to school in your 30s. You probably have an established career or family, or maybe you’re just starting out with those. Going to school can throw a wrench in what you have going.
This just means that you have experience in making big decisions. By now, you’ve made several big decisions involving jobs, family, or where you live. Going to college is a big decision. Fortunately, you’re well-aware of how one decision can change everything, so you’re not going to jump in without fully thinking it through.
Parenthood, bills, and realizing you’re not so young anymore are all factors that have 40-year-olds thinking they’re too old for school. Maybe life is stable, and you don’t want to take any unnecessary risks. But, maybe, life is too stable.
Your 40s is a great time to make a career change. You have plenty of life and career experience, and you still have plenty of years ahead of you. If you’re unhappy with your career and think that going to college will improve your situation, it would be wise to take the chance. Going to college could get you a raise in your current career or allow you to change your profession completely.
The 50s and Beyond
Whether you’re nearing 60 or 70, you can still go to college. By now, you probably have children that are starting college, finishing college, or are well into their careers. You might be considering retiring from the career you’ve had for years and aren’t sure what to do next.
Your age will benefit you in college because your time matters to you. You’ll be more focused than your peers, and this will often result in higher grades. Plus, if you choose to go to college after you retire, you’ll have more time to study and won’t have to worry so much about when you’ll find time for homework.
Your Education Options
You have several options for going to college. First, you need to decide which degree you want to earn:
Associate degrees take about two years to complete, bachelor degrees take about four years, master degrees take about six, and doctoral degrees can take up to ten years. Consider what you want to study, what you want to accomplish, and how much time you’re willing to dedicate to your education.
Online courses are offered for almost every degree and subject. Depending on what you choose to study, you might be required to receive in-person or on-campus training in addition to online courses.
Before You Go to College
Before you go to college, there are quite a few things you need to consider. Making a life-changing decision shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Ask These Questions
- What are you going to study? This is arguably the most important question. You shouldn’t go to college without a plan, especially if you’re going as an adult student.
- How will you finance your education? FAFSA and scholarships are options that will make financing much easier for you.
- Will your education be worth the time and investment? Think about why you want your degree and what you will be able to accomplish with it. If it won’t improve your current career or give you good job prospects, it might not be worth pursuing.
Consider the Alternatives
You might not need a diploma to achieve your goals. In some careers, getting certification for different skills can boost your income or position within the company. Certification takes less time and money to complete than a degree from a university. Career One Stop is a great website to check if you’re interested in finding certification opportunities in your field.
If you’re looking for a new career path, starting your own business might be a viable option instead of going to college. Owning a business is risky, but so is going into debt to earn a degree that may or may not land you the job you’ve always wanted. This option will depend on what you want to do in your life. If you’re interested in teaching or the medical field, then owning a business clearly isn’t the route for you.
Regardless of your age, it’s not too late to go to college, even if you’ll be a freshman starting at the very beginning. If you really want to go to college to study and earn a degree, it will be worth it to you even if it doesn’t help you out with your job. If you enjoy learning for the sake of knowledge, then that’s a good enough reason to go if you think it will be time well-spent.
- A Touch of Business: The Pros and Cons of Owning Your Own Business
- Career One Stop
- Institute of Education Sciences: Postsecondary Institutions and Cost of Attendance in 2012-13; Degrees and Other Awards Conferred, 2011-12; and 12-Month Enrollment, 2011-12
- Kibin: Is Going Back to School at 30 the Right Decision For You?
- My College Guide: Are You Thinking About Going Back to School as an Adult?
- Psychology Today: “Am I Too Old to Go Back to School?”
- Reddit: At 24, am I too old to start college?
- Schools.com: Wondering How to Go Back to College at 40? Get Ready to Conquer these Challenges