Older Student Returning to College

The decision to go back to school can be challenging at any age. But for the mature student there can be issues beyond books and papers as you realize that you may be the oldest person in the room.

The biggest disadvantage for many mature learners in the college environment is the simple fact that most traditional students are between 18 and 25 years old. As a result, the majority of the college programs are set up to address the needs of that age group. This can lead the older student to feel like the entire college experience has been dumbed down, as you sit through endless classes that teach basics that you learned 20 years ago.

Those who choose to apply for financial aid may find the process down right insulting, as the counselor assumes that you are just moving out of mom’s house. You may have a budget at home that includes a mortgage and car payments, but the counselor will still try to walk you through how you are going to pay your bills when you graduate.

Then there is the requirement that you meet with an advisor, who will sign off on the classes you will be allowed to take. Usually your advisors will be a wealth of knowledge, helping you determine what classes are needed for your degree and when they will be offered. However, you might be a bit put off once you realize that they are the ones who have the power to limit the amount of classes you can take.

Once you get into the class, you may be shocked to realize it is full of kids. These students are just starting out in their lives, so they may not have the experience of working as a team on a project, or handling deadlines or doing their full share of an assignment. Which may make you nuts when you realize your grade on a team project depends on them.

Of course, the social life is a huge draw for many college-aged students and this may be the main topic of conversation around you. While you may want to get the chance to talk about Homer, chances are they will think Homer Simpson. Which fraternity had the best weekend party, who is sleeping with whom and plans for the next football game may be the focus of most of the conversations you hear.

Are you ready to run away screaming from the idea of college? Does this mean that you should skip any plans on going back to school? Absolutely not!  The college experience is a hoot at any age and connecting with this age group can be both hysterically funny and beneficial at keeping you young. College is all about learning and learning about the next generation by being a part of their lives can be one of the best benefits.

Most college programs are set up to serve the majority, which is going to be the under 25 crowd, and being prepared for that is crucial. Know that you will be surrounded with people who may not be as experienced as you are in the basics of life. Be prepared to have patience with the kind of endless questions you thought only your teenagers asked. Understand that these students are just starting out so the things you take for granted, like deadlines, are brand new to them. Take the time to learn from them, and you may find that being a mature student is less of a disadvantage and more of a new type of adventure.