Is it Worth it to Go Back to School Later in Life?

So you’re in your late 20s, or even your 40s, and you don’t have a college degree. Perhaps you attended college after high school, and it didn’t work out. You may be wondering if going back to college is smart. While finishing your degree can be a lot of work, particularly if you have a family and a full-time job, it is a worthwhile investment of your time and energy. Having a degree can dramatically improve your career prospects and make you a more well-rounded person. It is never too late for a fresh start.

Why college?

It is so important in our current economy to have a college degree. Whenever unemployment numbers are high, it will be harder to find a job. Because a bachelor’s degree has become fairly main-stream, you will be expected to have one for almost any career you seek. Even if the job is entry-level, you can expect more qualified candidates to pass you by. Job experience is important, of course, but it can only take you so far. If you lack a degree, your résumé is much more likely to land in the trash.

Many years ago, colleges would often classify students as “traditional” or “non-traditional.” Traditional students were young, white men ages 18-24. These days, however, the stereotypes are changing. In 2013, women represented well over 50 percent of college students. The age of the average student is in flux, as well. While young adults still represent the lion’s share of college attendees, the proportion of students who are 25 years or older is growing dramatically. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, older students’ college attendance has grown 35 percent from 2000-2010.

What’s in it for me?

As the demographic of the average student has changed, colleges and universities have stepped up to the plate to accommodate them. If you have a busy life outside of your education, you can take advantage of alternate education approaches. For example, you may be able to take online classes that allow you to study and attend class wherever you have access to Wi-Fi. With a classic brick-and-mortar institution, you can expect a variety of opportunities as well. Many colleges offer on-site daycare and preschool for children at reduced rates for students as well as specific scholarships for women.

College administrators understand the value of life experience. If you are studying to get your degree in the field you work in, talk to your education counselor about credit for skills and education you’ve obtained as part of your job. You may have to pay a fee and demonstrate your prowess, but it can save you a lot of precious time.

A great part of being an older student is the improved interaction you can have with your professors. As a seasoned veteran of the workplace, you have practical experience that puts you a step ahead of the kids who are fresh out of high school. You are attending college because you want to, not because you fear displeasing your parents. As such, older students are almost always more dedicated, more likely to participate in class discussions, with better approaches to study.

College is a time-consuming endeavor. Going back when you’re an older student can be even harder. And yet, if you do, the benefits will be rewarding and last the rest of your life.