Advantages of Being a Mature, Non-Traditional Graduate Student
Going back to college as an older adult can have its challenges, particularly if it's been a while since you entered a classroom setting or found yourself facing a pile of homework
The good news for older students? You won't be alone. During fall 2015, sixty percent of the graduate students enrolled at Ashford were over the age of 35, forty-one percent were over 40, and nearly fifteen percent were over 50 years old. In many ways, older students have distinct advantages over their younger peers. Here's why.
You Know How to Juggle
Even younger students who were heavily involved in extracurricular activities or held part-time jobs don't really know what it means to multi-task as an adult. Older students have years of experience shouldering heavy loads under their belts.
At a minimum, you've likely held down a full-time job or multiple jobs. Your work goes directly toward paying your bills and saving for your future, both of which take careful management. Caring for family – whether children, aging parents, or both – adds another layer of constant concerns to balance.
All your hard work is good practice for a graduate program, where an ability to prioritize and multi-task effectively will certainly pay off.
You've Lived a Little
Younger college students might be aware of international affairs, economic forces, or social issues, but people who've been around longer are simply more likely to develop a deep understanding if not firsthand experience with what's going on in the world and all the factors involved.
When you're in graduate school, general knowledge counts. The broader your knowledge base, the easier it is to grasp advanced concepts more quickly. You may have actually lived through a case study from one of your classes and therefore be able to provide more context than a younger student could.
In this way, your lived experiences can reinforce classroom lessons, benefitting both your instructors and your younger peers.
You've Got Goals
Sometimes younger students aren't sure why they're going to college. Maybe it was expected of them, or they simply couldn't decide what else to do.
Conversely, older people who return to the classroom do so with firm goals in mind. You've made the conscious choice to disrupt your life in order to pursue a specific reward. Whether you want to earn the credentials necessary for promotion, or you're ready for a complete career change, having a goal in mind can be a powerful motivator when enthusiasm begins to flag.
You've Got Guts
Every student has to deal with a little red tape, no matter how easy their college tries to make the process. Hitches with everything from financial aid applications to class registration to missing out on material when you get sick will occur at some point on the path to your diploma.
Older students tend to have more confidence than younger students when it comes to standing up for themselves, asking for what's truly in their best interest, and doing so in a professional manner that gets positive results.
Anyone who has spent countless hours waiting in line at the DMV, arguing will bill collectors, or filling out complicated tax paperwork will take the administrative challenges that schools present in stride.
You Know More about Money
The chance to make more money isn't the only reason to seek a Master's degree, though it's often a contributing factor. The true advantage for older students who've had to stretch budgets in the past, however, lies in being able to manage their money both during and after school.
Older students are more likely than younger students to enter graduate school with a full understanding of the real costs and the potential rewards of their education. They know to exhaust the full list of resources for financial assistance that are available and how to manage any debt they do take on.
The goal of getting a bigger paycheck goes beyond putting money in the bank for older students, as well. They often have specific uses for the money they'll make already in mind when they apply, whether they want to save for retirement, their children's education, or a dream vacation that's always been out of budget. These goals are something worth saving for, and older students have the know-how to do it.
Although the idea of pursing a Master's degree later in life can be scary for some, there are many advantages of going back to school when you're older. Deeper life experiences, broader background knowledge, and a goal-oriented approach can make the perseverance you need to succeed even easier to achieve.
Written by Ashford University staff