Older students definitely get more out of their college education because they have had the chance to acquire certain skills and mindsets that enrich their educational experience.
– Having had time out in the job market or building a family, the typical older student has a strong sense of “self”. This self identity helps students to understand how they learn and to incorporate what they learn into their personal lives. Both skills aid information retention and comprehension.
– A college education can be very expensive. Often, students that have always lived at home and that have been supported by their parents do not fully understand these costs. Older students do. This means an older student will strive to get their “money’s worth” out of each and every class.
– Older students tend to be less susceptible to peer-pressure and are better able to balance their social lives with their academic responsibilities. Younger students are more prone to social stresses because they are still developing their social networks and interpersonal skills.
– Many older students have had the experience of not having a college education. Often they will have worked in dead-end jobs or will have had someone promoted above them because of a degree. The value of an education, therefore, is truly impressed upon them and obtaining a degree becomes almost an obsession.
– Older students are closer in age to most instructors and professors. This decreases possible intimidation factors and encourages the student to view the professor on a more even footing. This may allow the student to feel more comfortable asking questions and will likely help the student to understand the professors’ references and points of view.
Unfortunately, getting the most out of a college education does not always translate into academic success. Often older students have more responsibilities to distract them. They also tend to be lacking in good study habits due to disuse. These stresses can make or break the college experience for older students. Once past these, though, older students tend to excel.
I went back to school to obtain my nursing degree after having worked for many years and after having had three children. I cannot say it was easy but watching the younger students, I felt it was easier on me than on them. Often they seemed miserable, like they were there only because it was what was expected of them. Although they memorized enough facts to pass tests, they did not appear to understand nor apply the knowledge well. Whereas I loved the learning process; they seemed to barely tolerate it.
My class had students ranging in age from 19 to 60 and uniformly the older students engaged in more class discussions, maintained the highest grades, and appeared to enjoy the academic experiences the most. In fact, the valedictorian of my class was a 49 year old woman. Her determination to get the most out of her college experience captured the respect and affection of the faculty and the entire class. More than any other, it is her that exemplifies my opinion in this debate.