Going Back to School at 40: A Closer Look at Non-traditional Students

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October 10th, 2018 by schoolbound

If you are over the traditional student age, and considering returning to college, you are not alone. Studies show the number of non-traditional students (those over the age of 24) continues to grow every year. Reasons for the increase vary, but one thing is clear: Being older has advantages.

Advantages for Non-traditional Students

  • Life experience – As an adult returning to school, you’ve experienced disappointments and challenges unknown to younger students. New situations and potential problems don’t rattle you since you’ve learned to navigate adult problems. Younger students can be distracted by new life experiences, resulting in difficulty with prioritization.
  • You know what you want – Often, traditional students go into college with the expectations of parents and teachers ringing in their ears. Eighty percent of traditional students change their major during college. They have minimal job experience and don’t know what to expect from the adult workforce. It is difficult to truly know what you will like when you have no experience. As an older student, you have likely worked jobs you didn’t like and have experienced being paid less than you deserve. You have compiled your past experiences to carefully choose your new career path.
  • Money – As a non-traditional student, you have likely had the experience of stretching your paychecks to make ends meet. You have probably been passed over for a promotion or paid less than you are worth. Older students are more likely to understand the full costs and resulting benefits to pay their education creates. College is an investment, and non-traditional students aren’t looking for instant gratification. They also are more likely to have specific goals regarding where the increase in income will be spent.
  • Ability to multitask – As an adult, and often a parent, non-traditional students have already mastered the ability to manage multiple tasks at once. Younger students are often struggling to balance a social life, a part-time job, and keeping their grades intact. Older students have spent years creating different balances, and this pays off when school is added to the mix. You already understand the importance of organization and time management.
  • A determination to Succeed – Non-traditional students often view a return to school as a second chance. You have likely made sacrifices including less money, less time with family, and a major change in lifestyle to accommodate going back to school. You may have been laid off or quit your regular job to pursue a new career. Therefore, failure is not an option.

Returning to school after 40 isn’t easy, but it does leave you with certain advantages. Life experiences add abilities that cannot be learned in the classroom. Your past can give you better study habits, help you understand classroom curriculum and give you an edge during internships. Non-traditional students have emotional connections that help them empathize with others.