It takes more than desire to return or start college as an older student. The obstacles are inherently built in because college is geared toward the needs of traditional students.
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), is the first step in the financial aid process. It is the government’s online application to ascertain eligibility for financial aid. Any student attending less than part time (6 credits per semester) is not eligible to apply. Most adult students take 1 class per semester (which is usually 3 credits).
A good way for these students to pay for college is through the educational benefit of their employers. Employers do not often pay for the class up front and pay very little for books and supplies. Full payment of the class is based on earning a passing grade (which can be a grade of a C; to a top grade of an A); otherwise the student has to foot the entire bill.
Access to Resources
The services and resources that are available during the day are scaled back after 5 pm. They are sparsely staffed and/or use Work Study students. Work schedules often conflict with college hours of operation making it difficult to complete the admissions process or address any questions/concerns. Much of the paperwork and registration can be done online using personal computers but will depend on the level of the student’s computer skills.
If the older student overcomes all of these obstacles and graduates with a degree, there is one last hurdle to clear. It is a high probability that they must accept an entry level position in their new chosen field. A large salary shift would have to take place as the graduate goes from an established career to an entry level status. A pay cut of this magnitude would cause a financial burden.
For example, internships are an integral part of your college experience and offer a way to put to work what you learned in college. But the older student, realistically speaking, would not be able to avail him/herself of this invaluable opportunity to get real world experience before embarking on the new career choice.
Prior commitments, obligations, and responsibilities remain the same in lieu of college which makes it difficult to balance family and work life. Classes are held for several hours once or twice a week after work considerably adding to the length of their day.
Location of the college is another factor to be considered, especially if the student has to rely on public transportation. Classes usually end between 9:00 and 10:00 at night which raises the concern for safety.
A degree would give the older student an opportunity to climb the socio-economic ladder. To reach their dream could cost them more than dollars alone.
College is a huge undertaking for the older student and should not be taken lightly or without much planning. Nevertheless, anything worth having is worth working hard toward.