Go Back to College at any Age: Over 50 and College

By Beth Dumbauld

If you are over 50, most likely it has been years since you’ve been in school. Perhaps you never went to college or took some college classes early on, only to withdraw as life and work became increasingly demanding -- leaving little room to pursue your degree. Years ago, given the inflexibility of the must-attend-on-college-campus environment and methodology, flexible educational alternatives were limited to a smattering of community or technical colleges. Think about it: once upon a time, not that long ago, there were no online classes, community colleges were not as critical to the educational system, and a college degree wasn’t looked upon as a basic requirement for most professions.

Times have changed. In the global economy, there is a high value placed on highly skilled, trained, and educated employees. Maybe you didn’t graduate college and feel unable to compete. That does not have to be the case. That was then. This is now. If you want to go back to college, take course credits, or even earn your degree -- you can enjoy the flexibility provided by virtual campuses and online college courses. Going back to college is always an option -- and has never been more so thanks to the cost conscious degrees of the online world. Chronological age is not a viable excuse to not follow your dreams.

You Will Be Different

Yes, if you choose to go back to college later in life, you will be different, but not in the way you may think. The source of your difference won’t be your age. There is no one typical student. In fact, almost 75 percent of undergraduates are considered in some way “nontraditional students.”

Some of these nontraditional characteristics include:

  1. Delaying enrollment at college years after attending high school
  2. Attending school part-time
  3. Working full time
  4. Having dependents other than a spouse, usually children, but sometimes others such as an aging parent.
  5. Financial independence 1

The majority of students pursuing their undergraduate degree don’t follow the traditional path of high school then a move to an on-campus 4-year degree. You can stand out from the pack by taking college classes, even if it is later in life. An individual with life and job experience can actively stabilize their career and move further along in their career more rapidly with two simple words on their resume: college graduate.


1 National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education, Closer Look 2002a, Nontraditional Undergraduates, 2002 (latest year statistics are provided)
http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/analysis/2002a-sa01.asp