Tips for Older Student going to College or Univeristy

Age differences in a college or a university venue is a question of mind set.  All the clichés of age difference seem to be exaggerated and there are several elements that impact how an “older” student can not only benefit, but contribute to any classroom.  There are also some factors that you have to assume and take into account such as a person’s temperament, frustration tolerance and willingness to help when asked. 

There are two university time periods that classes are given and they are as different as night and day, in fact they are night and day.  Day classes have a different essence than night classes, and the generational differences can be much more apparent in day classes.  Night classes have differences that are both obvious and more accommodating to older students.    

Any tips to cope in day classes with age differences, assumes that the age ranges are not too great.  The second assumption is that the student is going to day classes where the age ranges are on the lower end of the spectrum.  It can be intimidating for a mature new or returning student to enter a classroom filled with tech savvy young people eager to change the world.

Tips for Older Students in Day Classes.

*  The first tip for older students is be yourself.  Even the jargon of youth is different in as little as a few years and what may seem current to you, can seem ancient to a person just five years younger.  So eliminate the effort to co-opt the language of the day and stick with just plain ol’ good English.  There is nothing more pathetic that trying to sound “young.”  In other words, act your age.

*  Tip two is be self confident about not only your capabilities but life experiences. Remember, a respectful younger person, may see you as someone with good advice to share, perhaps in an area of employment you’ve experienced.  The key to this tip is be reserved and allow the younger person to do the asking.

 *  Avoid the tendency to assume your experiences are more valuable than anyone else’s.  Here, the golden rule is, as it usually seems to be, an excellent guide.  Give what you hope to received, respect and show sincere interest in your younger peers.  It doesn’t hurt to show respect by asking advice from young classmates when you need it.  College students are young but they are adults and will respond as such when given the opportunity.

*  Fourth on the tip list is to assume that your classmates, though younger, are your peers.  You have experiences that may be valuable to them, but they frequently have the ability to help you with the constantly changing world the electronics, computers and cell phones.

*  Be unassuming, friendly and quick to praise. Worthy and meaningful praise is one of the best greases for collegial relationships.

*  Experiences have taught that assuming that classmates are all a bit too “self-absorbed” may be a judgment that applies to a relatively few of the younger generation.  One of the differences of older and younger students is that youthful idealism is not quite as irritating as it may seem and that sometimes hard-earned patience learned from of life experiences can temper frustrations.      

*  Be ready to help and the best help is usually a listening ear.  With that listening ear be slow to criticize, reluctant to make assumptions and active in engaging the younger student to seek advice. 

*  One of the best tips is that there is no such thing as constructive criticism…it’s only criticism.   You may have attended college before and have some experiences that could assist in your interaction with younger classmates so be aware of opportunities to lend a hand.

*  Day time classes also include university activities from sports to debate and usually include much more emphasis on extra-curricular actives which impact the nature of classroom participation.  As an older student, you may be required to participate in a extra-curricular activity as part of your education and compete or closely associate with your classmates.  As a journalism major, for example, you may be required to be a writer on the school newspaper to graduate. When you have a “discussion,” soft is better than loud and listening is better than speaking, most of the time.

Night Class Tips

*  If you want to return or start university as an older student and just can’t tolerate the idea of sharing class rooms with young bright and motivated students, night classes might be a better alternative.

*  Any student, who has attended both day classes and night classes as a returning or new student of an older age, immediately both sees and feels the differences in night classes.  Night time classes also have a whole different breed of student. They’re usually older, are much more focused on the classes themselves and less into the “college experience.”  That can be a big advantage if an older student has difficulties with day time classes and the vicissitudes that manifest themselves there.

*  Generally night class students don’t have time to do much but go to class and are frequently raising a family and more of them will have the same concerns and goals as you have. It just may be that night classes are the solution to age differences for you.  However, as the first tip suggests, being yourself with an eye to assist, when asked, can solve most of the problems faced by older students.