If you're over the age of 30 and reading this, you might be asking yourself: should I go back to school or is it too late?
The short answer is: it's never too late to start. But before committing to more years of education, read on to weigh out your options.
Things to Consider Before Going Back to School
Whether you're completing your bachelor's degree, or taking the leap to grad school, here are some questions to ask yourself before becoming a student again.
How Good Are You At Managing Your Time?
Good time management is essential for college success. You’ll need to manage your lecture schedule, individual study time, and group projects — on top of tracking and meeting multiple deadlines at the bare minimum. This can be a real challenge for older students who often have other responsibilities and commitments to take care of as well. As such, you’ll need to carefully manage your time to maintain a healthy balance that keeps all the different aspects of your life on course.
What Other Responsibilities Do You Currently Have?
Speaking of other commitments and responsibilities: what else do you have going on outside your scholarly journey? Are you in a relationship? Do you have children or any other dependents? Are you employed? Is there a mortgage to pay?
Studying has a considerable financial impact that you need to carefully consider. So, be sure to evaluate your full range of responsibilities first. Thereafter, you can comfortably make a decision on the feasibility of taking a college course while meeting all your other commitments.
Do You Want To Take Classes In-Person Or Online?
The proliferation of the Internet and teleconferencing technology has opened up a range of options that were not available to would-be learners even a decade ago. Online courses can give you more latitude to fit your studies in with other aspects of your life. But if you prefer in-person classes, you need to consider which universities you can physically attend, while taking your other responsibilities into account as outlined above. If you’re not limited by location or commitments, more power to you and the greater selection of choices you’ll have at your disposal.
What Does Your Future Career Path Look Like?
Consider how your chosen course of study will impact your preferred future career before committing. Since attending university is a significant time and financial investment, only look to make your final decision after a careful cost-benefit analysis. Is there any evidence of pronounced career progression from previous course graduates? What does that path look like? Can course leaders clearly outline how you’ll develop the relevant knowledge, skills, and experience for your future field of work?
Think long and hard about these points to maximize the chances of further education delivering an excellent return on investment, long into your future.
5 Benefits of Going Back to School
By taking the key considerations above into account, you’ll be better placed to take up your studies with a clear mind. Here are five important benefits of making the decision to return to school.
You're Attending School Out Of Your Own Will
The first benefit of going back to school is to enjoy an experience you’ve chosen for yourself — not because someone else wants you to or that it is expected of you. Many students entering tertiary education straight out of high school do so because of parental and peer pressure. It can result in students taking courses they have no real interest in, which can lead to a poor university experience or diminished performance.
As a mature student, you’re better equipped to fully appreciate your learning journey. You’ll be doing a course you’ve chosen, with a good understanding of how it will benefit you in the future. The extra miles under your belt also puts you in a better position to excel, thanks to greater maturity and more refined skills in many complementary areas of your life.
Increase Your Earning Potential
The right qualification can help you boost your earning potential. Indeed, college graduates receive higher salaries on average than those who have not earned a degree. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that the median salary of people with master’s degrees is around twice as high as the median salary of non-graduates.
There are several reasons for this. In the first instance, the completion of university studies equips you with a range of specialist skills and training that employers are keen to tap into. In addition to this, finishing a college course conclusively demonstrates the following:
- You are capable of undertaking high-level analytic work
- You have excellent time management skills
- You can organize your work schedule and successfully meet multiple competing deadlines
Furthermore, many organizations have specific educational requirements in place for progression to more senior positions. Therefore, acquiring a college degree can directly impact your earning potential and career opportunities.
Refine Your Skills In A Career Path You're Passionate About
When you return to school as an adult, you’re more likely to take up a course that you’re passionate about. Chances are, you’ve considered whether the course will deepen your skills in an area that genuinely interests you. The process of gaining additional mastery in a field you love is incomparably rewarding.
Contrary to the experience of many students, you may find yourself looking forward to the lectures and coursework. As a result, the process of refining your skills can become a lot more efficient and a lot more enjoyable.
Network With Other Like-Minded Individuals In Your Industry
In addition to enhancing your knowledge and skills, going back to school provides an excellent opportunity to also extend your network of professional contacts. Throughout your course, you will meet numerous professors and like-minded students. Not only are people with shared interests more likely to turn into friends and companions, but they are also better placed to offer help and guidance as you progress through your career.
You can also make great connections outside the classroom. Whether it’s through shared accommodation, a shared passion for sports, or meeting through mutual friends, many successful relationships and careers have been built on university networks.
Show Your Kids The Value Of Education
Leading by example is one of the cornerstones of good parenting. If you’re over 30 and have started building a family, you can demonstrate the value of education to your children. Actions often speak louder than words, and this is an excellent opportunity for your kids to see it first-hand. Observing you as an engaged student who takes their education and future seriously can rub off on your offspring and encourage them to adopt a similar approach to their schoolwork.
5 Tips For Going Back to School Over The Age Of 30
Now that you have a better understanding about the key benefits of returning to school, here are five important tips that will help you get the most out of your studies.
Time Management, Above All
As previously stated, time management is a crucial component of successfully completing university. Do you have other commitments that take up lots of your time as well? If so, it can quickly start to feel overwhelming. Following the simple steps can make life so much easier for you.
First, look to incorporate a long-term plan. Begin by drawing up a schedule detailing all your college, home, and work deadlines, in addition to any commitments you may have over the next few months. Be sure to check your course’s curriculum to accurately estimate your workload including the amount of study time to expect for each class as well. Doing this exercise will enable you to plan the time around your studies more effectively.
Thereafter, address the finer details. Once your long-term planning is complete, your focus can turn to the intricacies of your time management. The most important aspect here is to make the most of your time. Two few examples of how you can achieve this are:
- Avoiding perfectionism. When a task is complete and the allocated time is over, move on to the next assignment. Return to it later if necessary but refrain from eating into the time you’ve set for other tasks.
- Working smart. This includes finding study areas that are free from distractions so you can really make the most of your study time. Additionally, make use of study techniques like SQ3R, retrieval practice, and spaced practice among many others that work best for you. On top of all this, take regular breaks. The quality of your work and ability to focus, decline over time if you aren’t giving yourself sufficient rest.
Decide What You Want Out Of Your Degree
As we’ve made clear, choosing your course based on the benefits towards your future career is the sensible thing to do. Just remember that you’ll be given countless opportunities to acquire new skills, gain knowledge in new areas, and study under different subject experts. Keep your different goals front of mind throughout this process. Are you keen to improve your public speaking skills? If so, consider courses that are graded on class presentations, or organize a student conference. Do you want to develop technical skills in a particular area? Pick methodology classes that teach these skills.
Your journey through your degree will, in large part, be determined by you. Therefore, navigate a route that brings you the maximum benefits that you’re seeking.
Spend Time Researching The Right School And Program
Ensure you do some research to establish what different universities and courses have to offer before sending off your applications. When identifying the right school and program for your needs and goals, there are several critical factors you’ll need to weigh up as outlined below.
- The school’s location. Do you want to leverage the many benefits of in-person classes, including all the additional resources like a library and computer labs that you’ll have available during your studies? You’ll either need to go for schools that are nearby or be willing to relocate.
- The school’s reputation. While this certainly isn’t the be-all and end-all of further education, earning certain degrees from certain schools can carry more weight in the real world. Not only can it make your CV stand out but you can also connect with a different caliber of contacts at certain colleges more than others. That being said, when weighing up the merits of the school versus the course itself, it’s generally a better idea to opt for a course that better suits your needs at a less prestigious university than vice versa.
- The course itself. Speaking of courses, carefully assess the module overview for each program you are interested in. Does it cover all the areas you need and teach all the skills you require? At this point, you should already have a clear idea of what you want to get out of your degree. Ensure that the course you choose meets these requirements. The skills and knowledge you develop from the coursework will be the critical element for most employers when you hit the job market.
Look Into Any Scholarships And Grants Beforehand
As you already know, attending university is a big investment. But many people do not know that there are numerous scholarships and bursaries available for people from certain backgrounds and demographics. This support can be used to cover all or part of your university fees. You can draw upon a variety of resources to find something you might be eligible for.
As a first step, contact the financial aid office of the college you are applying to. Their role revolves around helping students locate and apply for scholarships, as well as other forms of financial aid. Another very useful resource is the free scholarship search tool on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website. It’s an excellent platform that searches through over 8,000 scholarships and allows you to narrow down your search by location, keyword, or even gender. In addition to this, theU.S. Department of Education can also offer some help in your search for a scholarship.
Surround Yourself With People Who Support You
Like with any other aspect of life, it’s important to surround yourself with people who are supportive of your ambitions and goals. A college course is a considerable undertaking at the best of times, but as a mature student you are likely to have even more demands on your time and focus due to more responsibilities. Having friends and family in your life who can help to shoulder some of that burden, provide encouragement and advice, or simply lend an ear from time to time, can have a huge positive impact. It can be the difference between achieving your lofty university objectives and burning out in the middle.