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Am I Too Old to Go Back to School?

Obtaining a new degree at any age can increase your earning potential and career prospects. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in general the more education you have the higher salary you can earn.

Advantages of Age
Older students may have several advantages over their younger counterparts, including:

1. Work experience. Many employers have programs to aid with tuition for those earning advanced degrees. Relevant work experience can often help you get into more competitive programs.

2. Focus. Unlike the typical college freshman getting used to living away from parental supervision, partying at fraternity houses and juggling extra-curricular activities, you’re there exclusively to learn. It can make the workload easier to handle, even if you haven’t taken an exam in twenty years.

3. Life experience. Don’t underestimate how much knowledge you’ve accumulated simply through living that younger students don’t possess.

4. Enhancing career options. If you’re tired of your current career, getting a degree can enable you to start down an entirely new career path, perhaps making the second half of your life even more interesting than the first.

Overcoming Disadvantages
The biggest problem many older students encounter is their own self-confidence. They may be reluctant to go back to school since they’re afraid they may not be able to handle it, or that they may look ridiculous in a classroom full of students far younger than them. But many baby boomers upon reaching retirement have decided to further their education, and with 75 million boomers out there you’re certainly not alone.

You may find the classes and workload more difficult than other students at first since you’re out of practice. The good news, however, is that getting into a rhythm may take some time. So be patient. It can and should get easier.

Programs That Cater to Non-Traditional Students
Online programs often cater to older students. The flexibility of attending classes online at your own convenience can make it much easier to meet family obligations or to continue working. Today’s online learning programs are usually just as respectable as their traditional brick-and-mortar counterparts. And you can attend any school you want, anywhere in the world, without having to uproot your life.

In addition, some MBA programs and many medical schools actually prefer older students since they’re usually more focused and more mature.

Funding and Scholarships for Older Students
Most scholarships and funding programs typically don’t have any age restrictions. There are also several scholarships available specifically for older students, where you must be above a certain age in order to be eligible. In the application essay, it helps to talk about why you want to return to school and what you plan on doing with your degree.

The advantages of returning to school should far outweigh any obstacles you may foresee. Your age shouldn’t stop you from going after a degree.

Age Specific Scholarships: Removing the Boundaries in Education
Am I Too Old to Go Back to School? What Medical Schools Look for Non-traditional Applicants
Are You Too Old for School?
Financial Aid for Older and Non-Traditional Students
More Education Means Higher Earnings–For Life
The Advantages of Being an Older Student
Too Old for Business School?
You’re Never Too Old for School

Publish date: January 4, 2009