The Plus Side of Being an Older Student
Going back to school after working for a number of years can help people gain new skills and be stronger competitors in a rough-and-tumble job market. Plus, for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, transitioning to the workforce can be smoother with the addition of a(nother) degree to their resume.
Given the number of people who have been laid off in recent years, it’s really no surprise that the US Department of Education says more than a quarter of all college students are 30 years old or older.
This is good news for mature students who may take reassurance from the fact that there will likely be other students like them. You know – students who’ve been of legal drinking age for a decade (or two).
And even though it might be intimidating to re-enter a college classroom – or enter it for the first time since high school – there are definite upsides to being an older college student. Here are a few:
Perspective. Brand new high school grads have yet to figure out how much they still have to learn. Older students have had the benefit of being knocked down by the real world a time or two, and they’ve had practice picking themselves up and trying again. Plus, they’re able to apply coursework to their own experience, which allows them to add a lot of value to class discussions.
Focus. True freshmen spend most of their first semester figuring out how to navigate the brand new world that’s just unfolded before their eyes. For many of them, it’s their first taste of responsibility and freedom. Older students – especially those who’ve served in the military – are more likely to know how to avoid distractions and stay on task. As a result, they’ve learned how to better manage priorities and their time, and aren’t going to fall to pieces if they have to study when they’d rather be enjoying spring break.
Self-sufficiency. Older students are likely to have dependents – families of their own who rely on them to provide financial, emotional and practical support. An 18-year-old is far more likely to still be a dependent. Not to mention the fact that they may not have learned how to do their own laundry, cook for themselves, and manage their own finances. Combined, these practical matters can be a stumbling block for a young student trying to make their way through their first semester at school.
Are you a returning student? Have something to share about your experience? Let us know in the comments below.
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