Returning Adult College Student

There are more returning adult college students each fall. Is it difficult going back to school after the age of thirty?

Age brings with it a wealth of wisdom. Growth achieved from various experiences, the years generally finds us more mellow, more patient, and infinitely more intelligent. However, as we age, we lose our youthful mode of being risk takers, and we tend to fear that with which we aren't familiar.

By the age of thirty, most Americans are aware of what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Usually set in their careers, and many choose to begin families at this point in time, a select few are restructuring their lifestyles. Denied the initial opportunity to further their education, or simply swamped with responsibilities that disallowed it, many 30-something folks are investing in backpacks and books, and joining the younger set on college campuses across the country.

Colleen Emery, a 38-year old Portsmouth, New Hampshire woman, started college a year ago. She is studying to be a Veterinary Technician at New Hampshire Community Technical College. Never having considered college an option when graduating from high school, she instead immediately entered the work force, and remained there in various entry level positions.

Her deep-rooted love for animals made the choice of studies an easy one. However, that's the only thing that's been easy. From deciphering the financial aid forms to struggling through college-level algebra, starting college in her thirties has proven to be a challenge all the way around.

"Having been out of high school for twenty years, it was scary thinking about going to college for the first time. I knew I might feel out of place. And I wasn't sure if I could handle the academics," Emery says.

Her first year was indeed a successful one, as she finished it with a cumulative 3.8 Grade Point Average. Year two brings with it a new set of challenges, as more difficult courses such as Mammalian Anatomy and Physiology enter the curriculum.

Socially, campus life has been unusual, as many of the students are fresh out of high school, and are young enough to be her children. She has been successful, however, in seeking out students closer to her own age, although they are an exclusively small group. The age difference has also been a concern when instructors have required "group projects".

"I have found that the older students take their studies more seriously. I had a hard time while working in a small group project, as the younger students didn't take the assignment as seriously as I did. They weren't responsible about establishing and keeping work times. I made sure I knew what I was doing. I had no control over what they did," she adds.

A challenge for most at any age, starting college after the age of thirty entails far more responsibilities than going straight from high school, when recent scholarships or parental support helps foot the bill.

A professor of Psychology at the University of Maine at Orono, Dr. Gordon Kulberg finds he, too, appreciates the dedication displayed by older students. "They've experienced life, and they know what they want. So, in turn, they seem to work a little harder," he says.

How does an adult prepare for returning to school? Obviously there are financial obligations to consider. Many adults find themselves hunting for a night job in order to attend classes throughout the day--or vice versa. Some colleges offer night classes to accommodate adult's daytime work schedules. However for some, there is still the arrangement of childcare or other responsibilities.

Securing the finances for attending college isn't as difficult as one might think. Times have changed in the twelve or so years since high school, and there are more options available now. Start with the financial aid office at the college you hope to attend. They will probably be your best resource on what is available and what steps must be taken in order to see if you qualify.

There are several kinds of financial aid; from scholarships and grants to student loans. Student loans are typically secured at a decent rate of interest and most students are not required to begin payments on student loans until six months after they graduate.

There are many civic organizations, religious afilliations, and businesses that make loans and scholarships accessible to adults. The Internet is a great place to browse, as well, with sites like This particular scholarship site matches criteria and credentials with available scholarship and grant applications. Its well worth investigating.

Starting college after establishing a career , family, or both will definitely make a marked difference in the way you live your life. However it will undoubtedly result in many significant positive changes in the long run. Those will college degrees are far more likely to be hired for better jobs at better rates of pay. And parents with college degrees are far more likely to have children attend and graduate from college. Education appears to breed a very motivated type of individual, and this is one virus worth spreading around.

It is undoubtedly a little harder for those beginning their college education after the age of thirty. And of course those reasons were mentioned before; family, job, and other responsibilities. However with the end result appearing ever so favorable and the options for financing being virtually limitless, more and more people are giving it a try.

So if you, by chance, encounter a 30-something""or older, student on your campus, give them a pat on the back. Cheer them on for making a choice that will undoubtedly wind up being one of the best decisions of their lifetime.

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