I was complaining to my therapist recently how I have all of these pressing issues at hand, and how I am feeling overwhelmed about everything that has to be done. In a month or so not only do my kids go back to school, but I also go back to school. In addition to that, this year I will be also working at a law firm 15 hours a week in addition to volunteering at a legal clinic one day a week. It is a good thing that I do not currently have a full time job. I would go crazy by the end of September, for sure.
Still, my decision to go back to college for first, my bachelors, and then, a post-baccalaureate certificate; was probably the best thing I could have ever done for myself, even if it was hard, and my life while in school is extremely chaotic. After I made the decision to go back to school, so many people were impressed and “inspired,” as I heard so many times; by the fact that I was balancing single parenthood, full time student status, and full time employment. Nobody could quite fathom how I made it possible without completely losing my mind. Not long after I went back to college I ran into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a while, who had seen my student status on Facebook. She congratulated me, told me how impressed she was, and then said the words I have heard so many times:
“I’m so envious of you. I wish I could go back to college.”
I had told myself these exact same words over and over throughout the years. I envied those that I knew who had finished their degree and had successful careers. I wished I could go back to college and get a degree, too, but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking I couldn’t. Who would watch the kids when I was at school? How would that work with my husband’s work schedule? How would I study? How would I be able to pay for school? What if I was the only older person in my class? What if it was too hard? Finally, I asked myself the only question I ever needed to ask myself:
What if I actually tried it, and was successful?
It turns out that as a middle aged adult college student, the experience is a lot different than that of those twenty somethings who are fresh out of high school and haven’t lived life. It also turns out that there are some real advantages to being an older college student, things that I never considered, such as:
- Professors tend to have a profound amount of respect for the “older” students who are in their classroom, and the professors do recognize that. They understand that older students tend to have more obligations, and are far more understanding if family emergencies come up, if you miss a class, or an assignment is late.
- Having a lot of life experience enhances college discussions immensely, and makes you look really smart. Yet, another reason why professors appreciate older students: life experience. It gives you a slight edge and a knowledge that can only come from experiencing things first hand, and not from a text book. My life experience has positively impacted virtually every class I’ve taken as a middle aged student.
- As an older college student, you’ve (hopefully) gotten the partying out of your system, which leaves you with one less distraction from studying. Plus, you can take an early class and not have to worry about missing class because you are hung over. I have to admit this was never a problem for me, even as a 20 year old college student.
- The human brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25, so learning at an older age is actually easier than those students who are under 25.
- As a college student, you get all of those fun “student discounts.” All I had to do was show my student ID and I had access to a lot of fun things. My favorite? Students get 50% off an Amazon Prime Membership, which if you don’t know, is $99 full price. I also got the entire Microsoft Office Suite Software for the “student rate,” purchased an iPad from the Apple Student Store, and more.
- If you are attending college as an older student, you will probably appreciate school a lot more. I first went to college fresh out of high school because that is what I figured was expected of me. The second time around, I valued my education so much more because I actually chose to go to school, and was also. Rather than doing something that was expected of me, I was doing something that I chose to do.
- If you also have kids, you get to do homework with them, which I think actually makes studying more fun. Not only that, but you can be a great role model to your kids when you show them how to balance life and homework, and if you are working on homework while they aren’t yet are supposed to be, it will likely motivate them more.
- As an older college student, you may have more access to scholarships that your younger classmates do not. There are a lot of scholarships geared towards the “non-traditional” students. I received a scholarship for non-traditional single parents. Free money for school? I’ll take it.
- If you are a non-traditional student with added responsibilities such as a family and a job, you will have far less time to slack off, and the free time you do have will be better put to use. I had less time to study as a non-traditional student and my grades were significantly better the second time around. I made Dean’s list twice, and earned two scholarships based on academic merit. This past semester, I managed to pull straight A’s for the first time.
- Graduating will be so much more meaningful when that day comes. My kids have always been my biggest champions, and I cannot tell you how great it was to walk across the podium and to hear my kids yell “WAY TO GO MOM!!!”
One time I was talking to a coworker, who told me she admired me for going back to school. I told her what I tell everyone: that life forced my hand when I got divorced. I could either keep working my dead job and be poor for the rest of my life, or I could try to make something of myself. She then said she had always wished she had gone to college, and regretted that she had never gone. “So why don’t you go back now?” I asked her.
“I’m not as young as you are,” she said. “I’m much too old to go back to school.”
When I received one of my scholarships, my parents came with me to campus for the ceremony. As we were walking through the student center, my dad struck up with an older woman, at least in her seventies, who we had earlier seen walking across campus with a walker, and was now sitting down for a rest. “Oh,” my dad said, “are you here to see someone receive a scholarship?”
“Oh no,” she replied. “I’m in between classes. I’m just taking a short break before I go back to studying.”
There is no such thing as being too old to go back to school. What are you waiting for?