Going Back to School at 40

adults in library studying

“Managers want to see degrees.”

Adele Williams wasn’t shy when explaining her reason for returning to school in her early 40s. The mother of three, who graduated from Ashford University in 2011, is among a class of students long referred to as “nontraditional.” However, that term quickly loses value when you realize that an increasing number of students are closer to Williams’ age than those fresh out of high school.

The number of enrolled students age 25 and older is expected to rise through 2024, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. With technology giving them easier access to college, adult learners are overcoming their anxieties about school and embracing the possibility of using school to extend or shift careers.

When Williams enrolled in her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies program, she did so knowing she’d gotten as far as she was going to go with her Associate’s degree. Although college can be daunting to some, her experience as a mother working a full-time job meant she was already a seasoned multi-tasker.

“You have until midnight to submit assignments,” she said. “If that meant I had to stay up late to get it turned in, that’s what I did.”

Williams’ maturity, not her age, was a key factor in her success, and the success of students like her, according to Andrew Torpey, Enrollment Services Manager for Ashford University.

“When students have a clear vision of how school fits into the larger picture of life, they are more prepared,” Torpey said. “Fundamentally, college is about critical thinking and a mature learner has a greater number of experiences to draw from.”

Every student has a different story, but Torpey cited three common motivations for returning to school at or after age 40:

  1. To earn a promotion.

  2. To launch a second career.

  3. To be a role model for someone else.

Need help finding your motivation? Read “Navigating the Future With Your Personal Action Plan” on Forward Thinking, and plot your future with Ashford University’s guide, “How to Choose the Right College for You.”

Written by Jason R. Latham, Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education

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