20 Best Colleges for Adults Going Back to School

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Returning to school can represent a steep learning curve for many adults that wish to follow a second career. While this is not uncommon, choosing a course and a college can be intimidating. Selecting a University that is fully equipped for older students and boasts the necessary features is essential for you to have the best educational experience.

Here are some of the 20 best colleges for adults going back to school:


  • Excelsior College
  • Thomas Edison State University
  • Charter Oak State College
  • Peirce College
  • Granite State College

Online Colleges

  • Capella University
  • Union Institute & University
  • American Public University System
  • Fayetteville State University
  • Liberty University

Below you will be able to find a detailed breakdown of the colleges and courses. Let’s have a look at how to select the best college and what to expect from it!


On-campus college courses are perfect for anybody wishing to study in a traditional setting while joining classrooms and study groups. This solution is ideal if you believe that socialization is an incredibly important aspect of the college experience. However, it is a viable option only for adults who don’t have a problem with commuting or have to juggle other responsibilities.

20 Best Colleges for Adults Going Back to School

Excelsior College

Founded in 1971, Excelsior College has been focusing on delivering excellent-quality degree courses to non-traditional students. The institution provides undergraduate and graduate degrees in several fields, among which business, health sciences, nursing, liberal arts, and technology.

The campus is in Albany, New York. But the college’s motto is to bring education to you, independently of your geographical location. Along with the interesting fact that the average age of its student body is 36.7, the online courses available through the University’s website have made Excelsior College the best one in the country for older students.

Lastly, the majority of this college’s students work full time or are involved in the military service. Building relationships with younger students can be hard if you have different schedules and interests. Yet, this college makes you feel right at home!

Thomas Edison State University

Catering specifically to adults and located in Trenton, New Jersey, Thomas Edison State University is also a leader in developing online degree courses. Here you can find undergraduate and Master’s degree in a variety of fields such as:

  • Accounting
  • Biology
  • Healthcare Management
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Health and Wellness
  • Communications
  • Computer Science
  • Cybersecurity
  • Criminal justice
  • Administration and management
  • Anthropology
  • History

However, there are many more options for students who can pick highly-specific majors, such as Aviation Flight Technology. What makes Thomas Edison State University so ready to welcome older students is their grants for military and veterans, as well as the many grants and scholarships available.

The extensive system of counseling and support services, as well as programs for spouses and children, have made this University a great place to focus on your educational path.

Charter Oak State College

Charter Oak State College. If your primary motivation for returning to college is to finish what you have started while younger but could not complete, the Charter Oak State College is an optimal choice. 

Thanks to its online courses, accessible transfer policies, and flexible programs, this college allows you to complete your degree course online. Indeed, while it can be difficult to transfer and gain credits in other institutions, by studying here, you can make the most out of the credits earned somewhere else or from work experience. Even better, the time passed between earning your credits and transferring them does not matter, so you can start learning from where you left off.

Due to these features, Charter Oak State College has become one of the most popular options for older and non-traditional students in the country. Today, this institution creates ad hoc associate’s, Master’s, and bachelor’s degree programs for students in the workforce or the military.

Peirce College

Founded in 1865, Pierce College is a significant institution for older and non-traditional students in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The main focus of Pierce College is to deliver a practical education that can be put into practice in the industry straight after graduation.

If you are thinking about going back to college for a drastic career change, yet the perspective of extended timings and waits intimidates you, this University prepares its students for earning immediately after college. This strategy is also based on networking, practical knowledge, and online courses.

During the 19th century, this University designed courses catered explicitly for women and highly career-oriented. This feature has made it popular among female students looking at building a career later in life. 

Moreover, thanks to its 7-weeks and 14-weeks formats, Pierce College has become a viable alternative for anybody looking at gaining an accelerated degree in a shorter time frame.

Granite State College

If affordability is your primary concern, Granite State College allows you to attend high-quality courses at reduced fees. This school has a whopping 100% acceptance rate, while 76% of its students are over 25. On the other hand, 77% of the total number of students practice distance or online learning, making the Granite State College a leader in the field.

Indeed, this college proposes to deliver excellent education to students no matter whether they are returning to the classroom after many years, or they want to follow their passion. Regardless of your age and life stage, Granite State College is an optimal solution.

Additionally, this University offers a wide range of courses that include:

  • Communication and media
  • Business management and finance
  • Education
  • Public Safety
  • Nursing and healthcare
  • Arts
  • Technology

Among its courses at Granite State College, you can find Master’s, associate’s, and bachelor’s degrees as well as teaching qualifications that can get you ready for the industry in no time.

James Madison University

James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, is not solely dedicated to teaching older students, yet it is an ideal choice for anybody seeking a non-traditional degree journey. Indeed, the University has embraced the increasing number of mature students returning to college and today boasts several online courses, as well as non-traditional admission processes.

If you prefer to experience the typical college atmosphere and teaching methods, James Madison University allows you to enjoy the social environment while understanding working adults’ necessities.

Among its courses, you can find Undergraduate Degree Programs in business, communication, education, performing arts, and much more. The graduate degree programs offered include art and music, marketing, communication, education, and behavioral studies.

However, what truly sets this college apart from the others is the number of professional courses and continuing education certifications, which include an ad hoc adult learning program.

20 Best Colleges for Adults Going Back to School

Elizabethtown College

Located in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, Elizabethtown College has been developing for over 50 years its flagship, the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. This course is designed to offer the highest education standards to working adults that are looking at breathing new life into their career.

This University offers both on-campus and online graduate and undergraduate programs over 50 majors. The school’s reputation boasts impressive scores, with over 97% of students receiving grants, scholarships, and helps.

Their adult students’ course is also customizable and allows for self-paced learning, as well as following a flexible schedule.

University of Central Florida

According to Best College’s ratings, the University of Central Florida is one of the best institutions for working older students. 

The wide range of undergraduate and Master’s degree offered by the school include:

  • Anthropology
  • Psychology
  • Nursing
  • Aerospace
  • Health administration
  • Business administration
  • Digital forensics

This University has become increasingly popular among older students due to the variety of online degree courses, which are customizable and based on self-learning. However, one of the main features of this institution is other online resources that students can access, such as mentoring, tutoring, and coaching.

If you are worried about finances, you should keep into consideration that the University’s scheme of grants and scholarships have been helping 44% of its students who can now graduate with no debt.

The University of Illinois at Springfield

The University of Illinois at Springfield boasts one of the best programs for older students, which include over 40 programs and majors. Here you can pick among maths, sciences, philosophy, English, and many other subjects.

Thanks to the way the programs and facilities are structured, every student can benefit from the networking opportunities and orientation tools at their disposal. The University, however, is one of the highest-renowned for the state-of-the-art development center and the library research tutorial.

Even in this case, the grants and scholarships offered by this University helped over 70% of pupils benefit from financial aid. The courses can be completed 100% online, yet the University campus boasts recreational facilities, healthcare services, fitness spaces, and areas dedicated to student’s life.  

Trine University

Located in Angola, Indiana, Trine University focuses its fields of study on business, arts and sciences, education, and engineering. The school’s campus is fully equipped to welcome younger and older adults. Indeed, the University has become a major focal center for anybody looking at experiencing campus life to its fullest.

However, Trine University understands and values the needs of working learners. That is why most of the bachelor’s, associate’s, and Master’s courses offered are also online. The dedicated portal, TrineOnline, allows you to access a self-paced learning platform where you can find 24/7 support and help. Active-duty service-members receive a 35% discount on tuitions.

Online Colleges

If you have wanted to resume your studies for a while, but the time, financial, and commute-related commitment have prevented you from doing so, you can opt to undertake a degree entirely online. Not only is this option widely available today, but it is also one of the most convenient ones. 

If you are worried about what the opinion of your future employer can be upon seeing an online degree, rest assured that today’s hiring managers are impressed when dealing with a graduate that completed an online course. Indeed, such a choice shows commitment, and it is valued as highly as a traditional degree.

Capella University

Capella University is a fully-online education institution that has been working since 1993 to develop alternative teaching and learning methods to accommodate working adults. This accredited degree program aims at delivering flexible education in a variety of fields such as business, counseling, education, health sciences, information technology, nursing, and psychology.

Each course supports self-paced learning and provides a valid accreditation that gets you ready for the workplace. One of the unique features of the Capella online University is its Ph.D. courses, as well as an all-encompassing tutoring tool, The Doctoral Journey.

The innovative FlexPath software used by the school allows you to:

  • Set your deadlines
  • Manage your finance and payments
  • Complete classes and learn at your own pace

Union Institute & University

Almost 95% of the students attending Union Institute & University are over 25, due to the school’s specialization in adult learning programs. It has earned qualifications such as the Military Friendly School designation and the 2020 Best Online College. This university offers Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral learning programs designed with flexibility of schedule in mind.

Students and learners from all backgrounds are welcome in the institute, which has created specific and ad hoc financial aid and support programs for each learner.

American Public University System

American Public University System is the highest-renowned institution that provides education and degree courses to the country’s military and public services communities. The online programs designed by this school differ from others, as they are more relevant to this demographic group.

Indeed, such courses emphasize affordability, accessibility, and student-focus. These characteristics allow them to remain attractive to that portion of the population going into service and leadership.

Fayetteville State University

At Fayetteville State University, 25% of the student body is composed of military personnel. However, if you are a working adult re-entering college after many years, this statistic shows you how flexible and self-learning based the school is.

The school is proud to provide some of the highest-rated online degree programs and tools that help students quickly transfer to this institution. This fully-online University offers over ten courses in various disciplines, including:

  • Birth to Kindergarten (non-teaching)
  • Criminal Justice
  • Fire and Emergency Services Administration
  • Intelligence Studies
  • Nursing
  • Accounting
  • Professional Studies
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • General Business Management

Liberty University

While the main campus of Liberty University is in Central Virginia, the University has today a global reach, with a majority of international and non-traditional students. One of the unmissable characteristics of this online University is that it offers over 600 courses and programs tailored to adult learners.

These accreditations range from short-term qualification programs to years-long degree courses that will take you from earning a bachelor’s degree to a doctorate. Study aids, assessment tests, and flexibility of schedule have made this University one of the most sought-after by adult learners.

Saint Leo University

Unlike other universities, Saint Leo University is not a new name in the field of education, as it is the oldest Catholic college in Florida. However, this school has been able to adapt to the needs of modern learners and created Saint Leo Worldwide, a global portal entirely based on online education. 

Today, students can access any of the degrees offered by the University and complete them through this portal at their own time. Even better, financial aid is available in many forms, ranging from scholarships to grants and loans.

University of West Florida

The University of West Florida is a military-friendly institution that stands out for its affordable and flexible courses. Through their online platforms, you will be able to study majors such as special education and health services, subjects that are not as common in similar institutions.

Their online portal is called UWF Global Online and gives access to endless online resources. These include student support and tutoring, as well as platforms to connect with other students and professors. This University’s range of courses is in continuous expansion, and they offer financial support and reductions to up to 90% for non-residents.

Bellevue University

At Bellevue University, over 80% of the student body is composed of learners older than 25 years old. The main aim of the Bellevue University college is to prepare the students to enter the industry and start working straight away after completion of the program. This feature has made this college highly attractive in the eyes of older students looking at changing careers quickly and affordably.

Aside from dozens of online degree programs that range from business to arts, the school offers the opportunity to join accelerated cohorts that help you complete your degree in a shorter time frame. In any case, their online portal (BRUIN) is fully equipped to support discussion groups, study groups, and online collaborations.

Grand Canyon University

While initially a traditional college, Grand Canyon University became an online school during the 2000s, to better accommodate the needs of adult learners returning to college. Today, the school teaches over 60,000 students, most of which through online learning.

For students in need of achieving a degree in shorter time frames, the University offers seven-week course formats that are accelerated and more intense. This option is perfect if you need to resume working as soon as possible after college. Lastly, one of the fantastic features that make this online college one of the best ones for adult learners is that you can transfer up to 90 credits from your previous course.

Amridge University

Founded in 1867, Amridge University has been a pioneer in the field of online and distance learning since the beginning of the 1990s. Of course, the University has not stopped developing since, boasting today, some of the highest standards of online education in America. 

Even in this case, the primary focus of this college is to supply career-oriented courses that can truly prepare the students to start working in the field as soon as they finish the course. Amridge University also boasts one of the widest variety of degree courses you can find online, making it the University of choice for many adults in search of a specific major.

Online vs. On-campus courses

20 Best Colleges for Adults Going Back to School

Many factors make specific colleges a better option for adults returning to college. In the section below, you can find all the features you should look for when picking a university. However, for now, let’s understand whether an online course or an on-campus college is better for you.

In any case, most physical universities boast options to complete some of the courses through online platforms. Still, this means that you will need to attend most classes and exams on campus. 

However, an increasing number of colleges are becoming more equipped to respond to the demand of older adults to return to college. Aside from embracing this growing trend, institutions are becoming entirely virtual while delivering same-quality courses and teachings.

Some adults prefer to attend a more traditional setting, such as a classroom. This environment can be familiar and make them feel more comfortable while allowing them to remain social.

However, some other older students might struggle to deal with pre-existing responsibilities, long commuting times, and having to attend classes and courses at a specific time of the day. For these individuals, the possibility to complete a degree online is what enabled them to return to school. 

Some of the benefits associated with online degrees are:

  • Increased flexibility
  • No commuting
  • A smaller investment necessary
  • You can follow the courses from home 
  • You won’t need to quit your current job to study

What to look for in a college?

Today, there are over 6,600 colleges and institutions of higher education in the United States. Undoubtedly, younger students can pick one based on convenience, courses, and career prospects. However, in their case, there is more space for trial and error.

Instead, older adults returning to college are often in the position to pick the course that can potentially result in a drastic life and career change. Selecting the wrong one can lead to a loss of money, time, and commitment. 

However, a college that is perfect for one individual might not be such a right choice for another. So, when selecting your University, you should ensure that it boasts the features below, at least.

Self-paced learning

Even if you have committed to a course, you might struggle to follow classes in the same way that younger students with less pre-existent responsibilities would. Ensure that there are self-paced learning tools that allow you to catch up with the topics covered at your own time.


Flexible schedules and evening classes are essential to accommodate working older students. Unlike college-aged students, you might have a full-time job and family duties to juggle. This feature will allow you to not fall behind during the busiest terms.

Option to follow a course online

if a university is ready to welcome the needs of adult students, it will also have some options to follow certain subjects through online platforms. These tools are essential to keep up with the workload when commuting is not possible.

It is close-by

Unlike younger students, it might be impossible for you to leave your family and job behind to move to another state to study. Therefore, you should ensure that your University is close enough that you can commit to a daily commute without making your other tasks difficult.

Offer grants and helps

One of the aspects that put some adults off going back to school is the price associated with it. Indeed, University fees can take a toll on your finances, especially if you are following a full-time course on-campus. Instead, opt to find colleges that offer grants and scholarships to ease the financial weight of this decision.

High acceptance rate

Applying for a college just to be rejected a few months later can represent a significant obstacle, under time, money, and effort-related aspects. Instead, some highly-renowned colleges are proud to display a high acceptance rate, which will make your life easier during the application process. More importantly, you can start planning for returning to college without doubts or long waits.

Possibility of earning credits from work experience

While you might remember arithmetics as well as younger students, your life and work experience can be highly valuable when returning to college. Individual universities and courses allow you to make the most out of this knowledge and gain extra credits through a pre-assessment essay.

On-campus facilities such as child-care

Sometimes, leaving your child at home is just not a viable option. Inform yourself beforehand regarding the facilities that the University offers. You will be able to rely on those in the future.


Going back to school can be an intimidating step, especially if you are not sure what major or even college to choose. Unfortunately, not all universities are ideal for all students, and, while getting somebody else’s opinion is an excellent starting point, it might not reflect your personal goals. 

There are hundreds of colleges in America, yet some are more adult learners-friendly than others. Start by understanding whether you should enroll in an online course or a standard one, and proceed to find the perfect major that helps you achieve your career objectives. 



Hey there, my name is Anja, I’ve seen and supported my mom’s incredible transformation in her fifties. Seeing how my mom “awakened” and took full control over her life really impressed me. I got inspired and started dreaming about how we could inspire more people, especially women, to open up and create a second life for themselves. That’s how the idea of aginggreatly.com came to life…

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