10 Biggest Advantages of Being an Older College Student

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By: Lenore Holditch

More now than ever, adults are going back to school to achieve their educational and career goals. For some, it's their first degree or master's degree, and for others it's just the desire to keep learning that brings them back to college. Despite the rise in enrollment of students aged 25 and older, many adults still have their reservations about being an older college student. As nerve-racking as it can be to go back to school, there are many advantages to being the oldest (and wisest) student in class. If you've considered going back to school, but need more convincing, check out these 10 advantages of being an older college student to help you make up your mind.

  1. Life experience

    Older students have years of experience and a wealth of knowledge that they can draw upon and use for succeeding in school. These important life experiences make a big difference in the way older students value education and handle the challenges that come their way while in school. And in some cases, you might be able to receive college credit for the knowledge you've gained through work, prior coursework, independent study, and internships.
  2. Fewer distractions

    When you go back to college as an adult, you don't have to worry about the same distractions that younger students are faced with, such as social obligations, extracurricular activities, and sporting events. Older students typically have family, jobs, and an already established social life that keep them pretty busy. When you take out the fun, yet time-consuming distractions that are associated with college, you'll have much more time to devote to your studies.
  3. More specific career goals

    Older students typically go back to school with a solid goal in mind. Whether they're trying to change careers, get certified in a specialty, or take classes out of intellectual curiosity, older students come back to school to achieve their goals and interests one way or another. Younger students often go to college because it's expected of them and it's the next natural step. Without clear-cut goals, undergraduates tend to flail in college and take more time than is necessary to graduate.
  4. Maturity

    One of the biggest advantages older students have over traditional students is their maturity level. Research shows that adult students are more successful than younger students because they are more mature and serious about school. Adult learners have worked in the real world and know the importance of responsibility, organization, and time management. They have a better understanding of what it takes to succeed and are more willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen.
  5. Less intimidated by challenges

    For the most part, older students have had to face more challenges and obstacles than most young students. Sure, many students have dealt with financial issues and the challenges of working and going to school, but most don't have children to think about or mortgages to pay. Therefore, older adults are less intimidated by the challenges of school because they've dealt with equally, if not more difficult, life and work challenges.

  1. You have more contacts/networking opportunities

    Older students, who have been or are still in the workforce, have years of contacts under their belt. Those who are looking to switch careers or advance in their current line of work can utilize these contacts to find new work opportunities. All in all, having contacts and good networking skills will give adult students a leg up in the job market.
  2. More tuition reimbursement opportunities

    Older students who work may be eligible to receive tuition reimbursement through their employers. Many employers offer tuition reimbursement and financial support to students who want to go back to school to pursue an advanced degree or certification within the field. Older students also have more time to pay down their previous college debt and get back on their feet before beginning a new educational experience.
  3. You know your worth

    Most older college students have been out of the school setting for years, and chances are they've worked a couple different jobs in the meantime. During this time, adults acquire new responsibilities and positions and learn their worth in the working world. Those who know their worth can better achieve their goals of making a higher salary or getting a promotion with the help of a continued education.
  4. More incentives to succeed

    Unlike traditional college students, adult students typically have a spouse or family to support. Although some might see this as a disadvantage, it actually serves as an excellent incentive for adult students to do well in school. When you have a spouse and family depending on your success in school to better your financial state, then you may be more motivated to succeed and make them proud.
  5.  Get more out of the experience

    When you haven't been in a classroom in five, 10, or 20 years, going back to school is pretty exciting. Young, full-time students tend to grow tired of school and don't always appreciate the experience and challenges of learning. Adult students have had the opportunity to take a break from school and enter the real world, so when they return to school, they tend to be more enthusiastic about learning and enjoy engaging in class discussions.
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