How to Prepare to Go Back to School in Your 40s, 50s, and Beyond

go back to school

You’ve always wanted to earn your degree or go back for your Master’s, but at this stage in your life, you may have no idea where to start. Going back to school later in life comes with its own hurdles. You can’t just take out loans and go to class. You’ll have to juggle your own finances along with your family life and any full- or part-time work. That’s not even counting the time you’ll need to study and complete assignments for each course.

Just the thought of starting college in your 40s or 50s can seem scary, and perhaps even pointless. For people with clear goals and the inner strength it takes to follow through, however, pursuing your dreams and earning your diploma after 40 is not as impossible as it may seem. All it takes is a little preparation to lay the foundation for your success.

Start by asking yourself a couple simple questions to establish the right educational path for you. Then, check out the five steps below to set yourself up for success while you’re in school.

Questions to Ask about your Education

What do you want to major in? Older students often come with more professional experience, even if they have less formal training. Whether you want a new degree to help you advance in your current career or to change career paths completely, it’s important to know what kind of degree and degree focus will help you achieve your specific goals. Do your research about each degree program that interests you so you can be sure that the one you choose will contribute to the future you want for yourself and your family.

You’ve always wanted to earn your degree or go back for your Master’s, but at this stage in your life, you may have no idea where to start. Going back to school later in life comes with its own hurdles. You can’t just take out loans and go to class. You’ll have to juggle your own finances along with your family life and any full- or part-time work. That’s not even counting the time you’ll need to study and complete assignments for each course.

Just the thought of starting college in your 40s or 50s can seem scary, and perhaps even pointless. For people with clear goals and the inner strength it takes to follow through, however, pursuing your dreams and earning your diploma after 40 is not as impossible as it may seem. All it takes is a little preparation to lay the foundation for your success.

Start by asking yourself a couple simple questions to establish the right educational path for you. Then, check out the five steps below to set yourself up for success while you’re in school.

Questions to Ask about your Education

What do you want to major in? Older students often come with more professional experience, even if they have less formal training. Whether you want a new degree to help you advance in your current career or to change career paths completely, it’s important to know what kind of degree and degree focus will help you achieve your specific goals. Do your research about each degree program that interests you so you can be sure that the one you choose will contribute to the future you want for yourself and your family.

Online or On Campus? Beyond your specific degree, the type of school and program you choose to attend can make a significant impact on your finances, relationships, employment, and educational responsibilities. Many older students prefer online colleges and universities to the traditional brick-and-mortar school experience, because online schools offer more flexible schedules to accommodate full-time employment, plus digitally-based courses and materials that support remote attendance. Online schools often come with a lower price tag, too. Narrowing your school search by the type of education you require is a good way to get started going back to school.

Steps to Prepare for School

Set aside ample time to adjust. It may take time to get used to studying and absorbing new material in college. When you start each new course, allocate more time than you think is necessary to focus on your studies so you’ll have time to adjust your schedule outside of school as needed. If you make time for school from the outset, you’ll be less likely to drop the ball in other areas when things start to ramp up.

Remember why you started. Always keep in mind the reason you went back to school in the first place – whether it’s the chance to earn a promotion, make a career change, gain a sense of personal pride and accomplishment, achieve personal growth and job satisfaction, or contribute to society in a more meaningful way. Putting your goals first can keep you motivated and help you focus on what matters most when the work really piles on.

Calculate the total costs. Beyond tuition, figure out how books and other academic costs might impact your household budget. Investigate your resources for financial aid, and make a financial plan that incorporates your school expenses. Discuss your budget with your family to ensure they know the long-term benefits behind any short-term changes.

Set realistic goals. You’ll be juggling multiple responsibilities while you’re in school. It’s crucial that your goals are both realistic and responsible so that you can earn your degree without burning out in other areas of your life. Be clear on the changes and sacrifices you’re willing to make and the non-negotiables that need to remain a priority. Set daily, weekly, or monthly goals for your biggest priorities, including school, and check them regularly to see if you’re on track.

Believe in yourself. Going back to college can be overwhelming – to say the least. That’s why the most important step you can take before returning to school is to develop and learn to maintain an “I can do this!” attitude. Reinforce your confidence with support from friends, family, and peers, and you’ll be well on your way to earning your degree and reaching your dreams of higher education.

Preparing for going back to college after 40 is just the beginning of a beneficial journey. If you hold steady to the reasons why you wanted to go back in the first place, prove your perseverance, and put in the hard work, then you’ll be well on your way to earning that life-changing degree. Find out which degree program can become the stepping stone to achieving your goals today.

Written by Ashford University staff.

 

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