In past generations, college campuses were mostly filled with young male students who usually still lived at home with parents paying for their education. These students typically went to college straight after graduating high school, and they were unlikely to have any permanent or full-time jobs or other significant obligations.
In contrast, today’s colleges are more likely to have older students, some above the age of 40, along with their traditional students. By default, the older students are called “non-traditional” students these days. There are both pros and cons to pursuing a degree after the age of 40. Here is what these students should know.
Older Students Will Usually Have More Problems Adjusting to Academic Life
Many older students have significant health issues that younger students typically do not have. Even healthier students above age 30 and older will still have more issues with the initial adjustment to academic life, especially if attending an actual physical campus.
Some reasons for the challenges older students face include:
- More likely to have health problems.
- Likely have not been in an educational setting since high school and are less likely to remember what they knew then.
- They may not have the required high school class experience to prepare them for student life.
- Are more likely to have children or other dependents to care for and support financially.
- May have a full-time job that requires time and effort.
- Older students are more likely to be less tolerant of sleep and schedule changes.
- Students of an older age often need more time to study and are less skilled with newer technologies that younger students are quite capable using.
- Could have community obligations and may care for senior parents.
- May have childcare challenges.
- Are less likely to qualify for some student aid programs in some cases.
- Might have more financial challenges than their younger counterparts.
- Will usually have difficulty balancing student life with home obligations.
Some Benefits of Being an Older Student at College
The good news is that there are some excellent benefits of being an older student at college these days. Older students are more likely to have beneficial life and work experiences that will help them succeed in this new educational endeavor.
They are also more likely to know what their plans and goals are for post-college life and career choices. Another benefit is that more collegas today are accommodating to the challenges that these non-traditional students have.
What Does All This Mean?
Older adults who are interested in attending college to gain a degree should get in touch with local counselors who can better explain all their options. Colleges today face greater competition, and many smaller colleges are happy to accept students and will often allow greater flexibility to help these students succeed.
There are also more online college degree programs and others that combine both traditional classroom courses and online courses in a hybrid type of setup. It can pay to shop around before deciding on any degree program. Older students often have savings and/or good credit to help them better finance their education with less debt when they finish their program.