By A.J. O'Connell You’ve always wanted to go back to college. Maybe you want to change careers. Maybe earning your college degree has always been a personal goal. Maybe you enjoyed college the first time around, but didn’t finish your degree. It can be difficult to go back to college as an adult. Recent high school graduates often have the freedom to devote four years to college, but when you’re an adult, things are different. You have a job. You might have a family. You’re supporting yourself and the cost of college may be daunting when you’re paying rent and other bills. Between a lack of money and a lack of time, you might be asking yourself: is it too late for me to go back to college?
Why it’s not too late to go back to school
The good news is that it’s never too late to go to college. If you’re considering returning to school later in life, you’re not alone. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 17% of all students enrolled in college in 2019 (the last year for which data is available) were over the age of 25. In many cases, these older students are going back to school for a very specific reason: they’re interested in a new career. Changing careers can be important at any age. There are so many reasons a person may want to switch fields:
- Better pay
- A more interesting job
- More opportunity for promotion
- Career advancement
- Re-skilling for a new field
- Following a long-held dream or ambition
Often, however, it’s not easy to find a new job — especially if you don’t have a college degree, or if the college degree you do have doesn’t match the requirements for the job you want.
How online education can help you earn your degree
Adult learners often find themselves spread too thin to consider college; responsibilities at home and work often rule out a traditional college experience. It can be difficult for adult learners to commit to attending classes at night if they’re also juggling family responsibilities or scrambling to work additional hours. They also have financial pressures, and they might not be able to find nearby educational programs that will advance their career quickly/ For these students, online courses and programs are often best suited to their needs.
Flexible schedules: Students in online courses – particularly those in self-paced courses — aren’t tied to the schedule of a class that meets in person. They can take their courses when they have time to do so and not sacrifice part of their grade to attendance scores. Even live online courses are a good option for a harried student; they may be expected to log in on time, but they can also sign into their lectures from wherever they happen to be rather than arriving in a specific classroom for every class.
Price: Online classes often cost less than traditional college classes; students often don’t need to pay for class materials, like textbooks, and may be able to find lower-priced self-paced courses online. For example, StraighterLine offers over 60 accredited general education courses that start at $79 plus a $99 monthly membership; all courses are 100% online. Students can access StraighterLine coursework immediately, move at their own pace, and pay as they go. Most students are able to complete a course in 4 to 6 weeks and realize a cost per credit of under $100 per credit hour.
Variety: Because online education brings the course to a student rather than the opposite, a wider selection of courses, degrees, and certifications are available to learners. Rather than being limited by the educational programs in their immediate areas, online students can find the programs they need to advance their careers.
Speed: Rather than committing to a two or four year institution, online learners can work through their courses in their own time, and often that means completing their coursework more quickly. There are also several fields that students can go into with credentials from an online degree, such as healthcare, education, accounting and computer science. Students who want to quickly get a better paying job might also look into online certificate courses, which can help them qualify to become healthcare technicians, bookkeepers, salespeople, fitness instructors, to name a few jobs.
College is for everyone – no matter their age
Remember, age is nothing but a number. It’s never too late to go to college or change your career. Students today have so many options when it comes to education, no matter their income level, schedule, or responsibilities — especially online.. If you’re looking for the credentials you need for a career switch, all the possibilities are just a search away. Thinking about making a return to school and looking for tips on how to go back at your age? Read our GUIDE TO GOING BACK TO SCHOOL AT ANY AGE for tips on how you can earn your degree at age 20, 30, 40, or 50!