How to Achieve Success as an Older Student

Are you considering enrolling in college although you’ll feel like a senior citizen if you do so? Students passed their mid-thirties can be a real asset in the classroom. They bring a wealth of experience and background knowledge to class discussions, are highly motivated and usually complete their assignments properly and in a timely manner.

Older students will, however, face a few challenges and should prepare in advance to meet those challenges. College students passed their prime will need advanced time management skills and the ability to communicate effectively with professors, fellow students, family members, friends, and co-workers. Other ingredients for success include assertiveness, patience, and a strong goal-orientation.

Pressure from other commitments will put the squeeze on the non-traditional student from the outset. Those pressures may threaten the success of your endeavor. Prioritizing your time will be job one.

  • If you are a parent as well as a student, try to enlist an interested child as a study partner.
  • Gossip around the lunch table at the office will give way to study and homework alone at your desk.
  • Housework may have to take backstage unless you can convince your spouse to take over the vacuuming and mopping.

Communicate your needs

Communication is key. Before you start college, have a family meeting to generate support and excitement. Let your entire family air their feelings and thoughts at the get-together. Let them know you intend to post your schedule in the kitchen hub and make a chore list.

If you use the family meeting to recruit your children to adopt a night to cook, get ready for peanut butter and jelly once a week!

Let your family know how important your educational goals are and they will be more likely to provide the support your need. Have those meetings weekly to address thoughts, feelings, and concerns that arise as the semester progresses.

Should you face a life-altering situation while you are studying toward an advanced degree, let your professors and advisor know. Job loss, unexpected health condition or the death of a close relative are crises that will engender sympathy and support from the college community. Faculty can’t help you or adjust assignment due dates if you don’t advise them of your struggles.

A cautionary note

Be careful about asking for special treatment. Assignments must be completed, homework submitted and tests taken despite the stress you face due to your unique situation.

For example, if you sign up for an 8:00 a.M. Class but your child doesn’t get on the bus until 8:00 or you enroll in a course at 6:00 p.M when you often have mandatory overtime at your job, you risk being tardy to class.

Late arrivals to class are very distracting to most teachers. Chronic tardiness often impacts your participation grade. It’s best to schedule your classes realistically.

During each class, ask at least one question or make one comment. Your professors will notice your interest and learn your name more quickly if you do so. It also helps to type your assignments. Hand-written assignments typically score lower than typed responses. Get into the habit of typing and saving all your work on the computer.

Regarding classroom etiquette, younger students may frustrate you and ask questions that seem elementary to you. Rather than getting annoyed or frustrated with younger learners, relax and enjoy your advanced knowledge. Each student learns at his or her own pace. Be patient with others.


Finally, keep your eyes on the prize. Semesters are only fifteen weeks long. Count them down. Before you know it, you’re in week ten. Then the number of weeks remaining are in the single digits. Now you have less than five to go. Suddenly there’s just one more class and one more exam, and you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done.


What’s the prescription for success for the senior citizen student? Prioritize. Strategize. Persist. Persevere.

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