Explaining the Trend of Older Students Returning to College

Like many people, I enrolled in college soon after graduation. There was a huge amount of flux and transition in my life at that time: friends leaving home; moving into my first place away from home; experiencing first-hand all the things your parents warn you you’ll have to consider, but have no real impact upon you until you have to deal with them firsthand. I ended up suffering a deep depression that stopped me dead in my tracks. I dropped out shortly before midterms of my very first quarter.

From there, I just went on living life, working hard, playing hard, and just letting life drift by. I lost my job during a big management shake-up at my job, and ended up moving to another city with friends for the lower cost of living. I got a job in boot manufacturing, doing hard labor eight hours a day, five days a week…and it was killing me. Sure, I had a decent amount of money in the bank and a nice apartment of my own, but all I did any more during the week was work, eat, and sleep. I got home so tired and braindead that all I did was plant myself in front of the television until I was ready for bed. Years went by like this. Eventually, I managed to come to the decision, thanks to coaxing from the right people, to return to college. I quit my job, filed for financial aid, relied on the support of my girlfriend, and took the plunge back into higher education.

So there I was, a freshman in college at the age of thirty-one, nearly a decade past when most people are first graduating. I spent my first two years at a local community college, which was greatly beneficial. Two year institutions tend to have a higher student median age (it was 34 at the college I attended) so I didn’t feel too out of place. Many students are returning for retraining, or getting degrees they passed on before, like myself. The instructors were very understanding of this, and worked with students to accomodate for busy schedules, kids (on-campus daycare), and non-traditional students. I’d recommend taking your first two years at a community college. Prices are affordable for both resident and non-resident students, and it provides a good place to acclimate yourself to college life while getting your basic requirements out of the way. Just be sure to take the time with a counselor to discuss transfer options. Not all classes, will count as credit at all four-year universities. Be sure you get the most out of your early college years. Then you can shift into a four-year institution, choose a major, and move on toward your Bachelor’s degree.

I think the most difficult thing, socially, for me at the four-year university level was being the “old man.” While I’m a fairly liberal-minded person, many of my views were rather conservative when compared to the younger students I was associating with. Luckily, in most cases students are open-minded enough to hear a variety of views, even if they don’t agree with them. I think I’ve even changed a few minds with a few good arguments.

In any event, if you’re wanting to reenter school, whether to get another degree or the one you never had in the first place, my advice is: go for it! Warm up the cold feet and jump right in. It’s an experience worth having. The job marketablity is nice, the better pay is good, but the education is an end in and of itself. You’ll be a better person for it, and that’s the best reason of all. I’m currently going into my first year of graduate studies, and there isn’t a single regret in taking this step. Do it for yourself.