Why going back to college in later life can be hard

There are a number of advantages to going back to college in later life, not least that you are probably doing so because you really want to and can see the benefits for your career in the future. You will also have the maturity and common-sense to make the most of the opportunity. However, there are still a number of disadvantages to being a mature student. 

Out of place

Most college students have either just graduated from high school or are in their early twenties at the most. If you are older than this, then you may struggle to fit in with your younger, immature classmates. You may be more of an age with your lecturers and tutors, but then they are not there to make friends with you. You could find being a mature student a very lonely experience, especially if there really is no-one else of your age group. 

Family commitments

Young people straight out of school are usually just starting their lives and don’t have any family commitments. As a mature student, you probably have a partner and children, or elderly parents who need some level of care. This means that you won’t be as relaxed about studying as many of your classmates and you may struggle to get everything done. In addition, you may need to travel some distance to get to college because you need to continue to live at home. 

Struggle with technology

These days, school-age children live and breathe computers and have no problem doing anything they need to do. Even if you have worked since leaving school, you probably only have a basic knowledge of how to use a computer and may struggle to catch up with your more tech-savvy classmates. There are undoubtedly ways around this, but it may take extra time that you don’t have to keep up, when you already have so many other tasks on your plate. 

Study techniques

Although maturity does bring a lot of common-sense to the table, when it comes to study techniques, you could be decidedly rusty. You will pick it up in time, but your younger counterparts will probably have just come from some other form of education and so will have a head-start. You may also find it hard to adjust to not having set working hours, after which you can simply relax – instead you will be working all hours.

Finding a job afterwards

You probably decided to go back to school because you wanted to either change direction or gain a qualification to improve your chances of promotion. In the latter case, your work experience should speak for you and you shouldn’t have a problem finding a new job, even if you have already given up your former one. However, if you’re looking to change direction, you could find that you are up against your much younger classmates. Employers may prefer to take on someone whom they can train up easily (and probably pay a lower salary). 


It can work out very expensive to go back to school in later life – not just because of the costs of your education, but also because you are having to adjust to a different standard of living once you don’t have a regular wage coming in. If your studying is going to take more than a year, you could really struggle. Yet if you take on a part-time job to keep yourself going, you run the risk of not having enough time to study. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it could be for some. 

Going to college as a mature student is not something that you should avoid – far from it, you will probably find it was the best thing you ever did. However, you should be aware of the disadvantages so that you can prepare for and deal with them.