Older students do not necessarily get more out of their education than any other students for a variety of reasons. Older students often are more focused and determined to achieve a certain career goal than some younger students who aren’t quite sure what they want to do yet. Older students often live off campus and have many distractions and family responsibilities that take priority over academics.
Living off campus can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how easily distracted you are. Dorms are notorious for great parties that make it more difficult to have quiet time to study. Living off campus may make it easier to focus on academics. Part of the college experience is making friends that have common interests and the same goals as you do. If you live off campus, you have less time to make friends to add to your career network.
Family responsibilities may include caring for children. I am currently an older student. I decided to change my career and go back to school for a second degree when my first child was two months old and I did not want to put her in daycare. Luckily, my husband works from home and was able to watch her while I was at school in the mornings. I always rushed home right after classes so he could get back to work.
Younger students have more freedom to go to the library to do any necessary research or to have study groups. I took classes that required research, but I had to do all my research online because I did not have time to stay on campus to use the campus resources that I was paying for. Some students benefit from study groups or getting together with other peers. Older students live throughout the community and have hectic schedules that make it more difficult to get together to study or do homework.
Most older students are more likely to have house payments, one or more car payments, and child care expenses and many other expenses that require them to work. Some younger students also have to work, but they typically don’t have as many obligations as older students who have families of their own.
Any student who has a job has less time to focus on academics and enjoy the social life of campus life. Older students with children also spend time with their children that takes away from study time. Whether the children are just learning to crawl like my daughter or if they are involved in high school activities, they deserve their parents’ time.
Older students also have a disadvantage because they haven’t been in school for a while. It takes some older students a while to get back into the habit of focusing and retraining their brains to study again. Older students may do the minimum that is required to achieve their goals, while younger students are more eager and able to devote all their time and effort into their academics. Many full-time older students are also full-time parents and full-time employees that cannot possibly devote as much time to study as younger students.