Returning to school at a more mature age can be an exhilarating experience. This huge life change is a sign that you’re ready to embark on an adventure to do what you want with your life. Whether you are upgrading your current career choice with continuing education or changing directions to learn something completely different, you’ll find life as a college student different and challenging.
Your Peer Group
Yes, those kids who are 10, 20 or more years younger than you are your peer group. You will be participating in group projects with them, collaborating on class presentations and communicating with them as equals. They are not your children though they may closely resemble them. They will gain your respect because they will be knowledgeable and know things you may have no idea about, such as all the latest technologies.
But don’t worry; you know much that they don’t know and you have a lifetime worth of experience and knowledge to share. Students who are what might be considered the “normal” college age often think older students are fascinating. Some of them may actually brave asking you why you’re in school at this point in your life. This is a fun question because the answer is no doubt one that tells people you are courageous and someone who embraces change. Your younger classmates may carry your story back to their parents and encourage them to enroll in college.
Another fun thing to discover is that, as an older student, you may be within the same age range as most of your instructors. You may also be thinking that, because of your years in the field and long experience you know as much as they do. This is a two way street. An instructor may have a natural defense mechanism when it comes to more mature students, so attempt to be perceptive about the tone of the classroom before you launch into your mini lecture on the subject matter.
In time the closer proximity in age to your instructors can work for you. The open communication with faculty that a younger student may not be comfortable with will probably come more easily to you. Any time you can broaden communication within a department will help you to gain insight as to expectations and outcomes and let your instructors know that you care about your college career. Be sure to share with the younger students that it’s safe territory to approach their instructors and how much it can mean for their college experience.
Although going back to school is an adjustment in all aspects of your lifestyle, the difference between getting an undergraduate or a graduate degree makes that adjustment even more acute. Gaining an undergraduate degree is a time consuming process that requires your undivided focus and concentration. Gaining a graduate degree doubles or triples the time consumption, focus, concentration and immersion. The research requirement of a graduate degree means that you will be spending a great amount of time reading and writing.
As a mature student you may have a family and other obligations that are already part of your life. Keep in mind the strict time management involved with fulfilling school work and get your schedule as much in place as possible before you are plunged into the semester’s frenzy. Ask yourself when and where you will study and alert your family as to how this change will affect them. All the preparation you do will make things run more smoothly with far less stress.
Very possibly you will find your experience in higher education at a mature age to be one of the most important and exciting times of your life. The knowledge you’ll gain will be unsurpassed. The benefits to your life and career will continue to inform you that you made the right decision.