Do you miss the sound of sneakers on squeaky floors? Are you dreaming of the days when you pored over textbooks or spent hours cramming for a test?
Well, it doesn’t have to be a dream anymore. You might be older than the typical freshman, but college is for everyone, and you can get yourself an education at any time and any point in your life. If you’re thinking about going back to school as a “non-traditional” student at age 50, consider this your guide to surviving college even after you’re over the hill.
There’s probably a reason you want to go to school at your age, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reap other benefits while pursuing your main goal. You’ll enjoy many perks by becoming a student again.
- You’ll increase your knowledge of the world. You’ll become smarter and more well-informed about the subjects you’re interested in, and you can apply that knowledge to everything from your career to your personal hobbies.
- You’ll fill your schedule with classes, lectures, labs, events, clubs, seminars, workshops and study groups. If you’ve ever felt lonely as an aging adult, going back to college will perk you right back up.
- You’ll boost your self-esteem as you set a goal and work hard to achieve it. People always feel happier when they’re productive, and you’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment in passing your classes and maybe even getting a degree.
- You’ll inspire your family with your commitment to education. You’ll show your children and grandchildren that school is important and that dreams can be achieved at any age. You’ll be a good role model for them.
There are pros and cons for everything in life, here are just a few of the challenges you might face.
- You might feel isolated socially if you’re attending a very “young” school. You might have trouble staying motivated during times of doubt, stress and failure.
- If you haven’t been in school for a long time, you might need to take remedial classes to prepare for bigger ones. This is especially true for subjects like math where you can’t take algebra until you know fractions. It will cost more money and take more time to get your degree.
- If you aren’t good with technology, you might feel left behind by the way that students and teachers depend on things like computers and the Internet. You’ll need to get comfortable sending emails and checking grades online if you want to keep up with everyone else.
How should I plan?
The first question to ask yourself is about your goals. What are you hoping to accomplish by going to school? If you want a degree, you’ll need to enroll in specific classes and collect a certain number of credits. If you’re just taking French for fun, you’ll still need to fit your baguettes into your schedule.
Payment is another thing to consider. How will you afford your new courses? You might have several options depending on the college in question.
- Grants and loans might be available to students under a certain income bracket.
- You might be able to arrange payment plans with the school. You’ll pay a certain dollar amount each month instead of paying full price all at once.
- Some colleges offer tuition waivers for senior citizens, but you might need to meet their age, income or residency requirements to qualify.
Once you choose a school, talk to their financial aid department to learn more about paying for college. They answer these questions every day, so don’t be shy about asking them. It’s better to figure out your finances in advance than be surprised by a huge bill down the line.
What should I expect?
Planning for college and actually walking into college are two different things, especially for a 50-year-old student, after a long time away. There might be an adjustment period before you’re ready to dive back in. Here are a few tips for getting back in the groove.
- Attend any orientation or “new student” events hosted by your school. These are usually held before the semester starts, and volunteers will give tours, hand out leaflets and answer questions about the upcoming year.
- Talk to your professors before or after class. This is especially important if you need special accommodation for seeing, hearing or participating in class discussions. Make your concerns known, but don’t do it in the middle of a lecture. This takes up valuable time for other students. Wait to speak to your professor in private.
- Find classmates with similar interests and personalities. Don’t try to force a friendship with the immature 18-year-olds goofing off in the back row. Find people you have something in common with, like other parents or serious students.
How do I pass my courses?
Don’t be discouraged if it takes you awhile to get back in the groove of quizzes and homework assignments. It isn’t easy for anyone, not even the kids who are used to it, so it’s understandable that an older student would have added difficulties. You just need to re-learn good studying habits.
- Take notes. They don’t have to be with a traditional pen and paper! If you have trouble keeping up with your professor’s motor mouth, ask if you can record their lectures, or ask if their lectures are also available on PowerPoint.
- Use mnemonic devices. These are memory tricks that will help you retain information through fun little words and phrases. For example, many people use Roy G. Biv to remember the colors of a rainbow.
- Plan ahead. Most professors hand out a syllabus at the beginning of a semester, so you should know well in advance when a test is coming up or when a book needs to be finished. Don’t let anything sneak up on you.
These are just a few things to consider if you’re thinking about going to school as a 50-year-old student. Remember, it’s never too late for self-improvement. You can take and enjoy college classes at any age, so don’t be afraid to call some schools in your area and see what’s out there. You never know until you try!