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Back To School: College For Grown-Ups

Those in the photos on their publicity material look like you did a decade ago or maybe even more like your kids than you, but nevertheless, you’ve decided to take the plunge and go to college. Whether you’re doing it for the first time, you’re going back to finish a degree, or you’re getting a new degree, college when you aren’t fresh out of high school can be a very different experience for people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and older.

Back to School: College for Grown-Ups

Having been there before isn’t necessarily an advantage either; academic life changes, or if anything, you might be at a disadvantage if you approach things with the expectations you’ve brought from earlier decades.  The tips below can help you prepare for this big and exciting adjustment.  


One of the first things you’ll need to start with is to figure out how to pay for school. There are many options, including scholarships, grants and employer help with tuition. Both federal and private student loans can also help you cover costs, and as an adult with a credit score, you might be able to get favorable rates on private loans. Don’t borrow extravagantly, but make sure that you have enough that you’re not worried about money while accomplishing the difficult task of getting your degree. 


Unlike a lot of your fellow students, you may have a spouse, kids, and a job. Any of all of these can make getting your degree more challenging. Ideally, your spouse will be supportive, but you can’t leave them entirely in charge of managing your life as a couple. You’ll still need to pitch in some. Children are an even greater challenge. While older kids can learn to do some households tasks on their own and might relish the opportunity to drive themselves to activities, young kids need more of your attention. There are plenty of tips for stressed out parents that you can employ to manage everyone’s needs, including your own.

You should talk to your family about what you are doing and why and how you can all work to make it easier. If they are used to you being the chauffeur, the chef and the problem solver, they might have to delegate some of those duties among themselves. As for your job, you’ll need to gauge how supportive your employer will be. This could run the gamut from getting help with tuition to simply not telling them about your schooling at all.


Don’t be afraid to start small, with just one online class to get your feet wet. This can give you an idea of what’s ahead for you. In addition to drawing support from friends and family, you may be able to find support on campus as well. Look for other students in a similar situation. There might be an official campus group for nontraditional students. 

You can also talk to your professors. In fact, it’s a good idea to stop off during their office hours and introduce yourself even if you aren’t having any issues. If most or all of your classmates are younger than you, you may feel self-conscious, but professors often welcome the opportunity for a fresh perspective and you may find that your classmates do too.

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