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College and Seniors

Updated on September 23, 2016
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Ruth, a.k.a. Elayne Kongaika, was raised in the orchard town of Orem, Utah. She married a Polynesian and has had amazing travel experiences.

This is my grandmother, who went back to school after she was married. She is an inspiration to me.
This is my grandmother, who went back to school after she was married. She is an inspiration to me. | Source

I was a non-traditional student. After my four children had successfully finished their college degrees, I returned to school and graduated with a bachelor's degree in my fifties. Any one over the age of 25 is considered a mature student (better than saying "old").

Straight out of high school, I found employment, and have been working ever since. But, the older I got, the more I felt the need to go back to school. I began to fantasize about graduating from college. I wanted to be as smart as my children.

Reasons to Go Back to School as a Mature Student

  • For personal fulfillment
  • To expand the mind
  • To get a better paying job
  • To get a leg up (update professional skills)
  • To fulfill a dream
  • To have a sense of accomplishment
  • To learn a skill to start a business
  • Have nothing better to do (not the best reason)

You know you are a mature college student when you think it is the weekend on a Wednesday and you don’t know what month it is.

You know you are a mature college student when you realize there are so many people smarter than you.

Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously. ~ G.K. Chesterton

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. ~ Mark Twain

True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country. ~ Anonymous

Why College May Be Harder for Mature Students

Going back to school after being away for so long can be intimidating for some people. They feel that they may not be able to do as well as when they were younger. Not long after returning to school, I realized that I could still memorize facts, although it did take more concentration when I read the material. I had always had a fear of exams, and also had to work hard to overcome that phobia.

If the teacher asked the class to break up into groups for discussion, there were a few awkward moments where I felt like I might be the last one chosen. I realized that the younger students in my classes probably resented the fact that I may be ruining their college experience. Since they are just continuing on from high school, the younger students still know how to do everything, and my questions seemed to annoy them.

Because of "life experiences", more mature students can answer certain questions with conviction that the younger generation can't. The other students may resent the fact that you are receiving so much attention from the teacher.

While young, it is usually expected that parents will foot the bill for tuition, books, dorms and the rest, or at least help out. But when you are older, you have to come up with a way to pay for it yourself. It can be very humbling having to work, keep up with a family and go to school all at the same time. The whole family may have to make sacrifices. Fortunately, today there are several options for non-traditional students including grants, fellowships and scholarships.

In some classes, I found that I was older than the teacher. Most of them were very kind and understanding, and I appreciated that they expected as much from me as the younger students. I had to prove that I could work hard, and that I wanted to learn all I could.

My Graduation Day with my four children (all college graduates).
My Graduation Day with my four children (all college graduates).
Many of my grandchildren, and my father came to celebrate with me on my graduation day.
Many of my grandchildren, and my father came to celebrate with me on my graduation day.

Advantages to Being a Mature Student Today

  • From life experiences, a mature student can put class material into context
  • Mature students are more confident
  • Mature students are not as intimidated by the teacher
  • More colleges offer night classes and have flexible schedules
  • Online or distant learning courses are more readily available
  • Accelerated courses are offered at many universities
  • Certificate programs and vocational training are offered focusing on certain careers
  • Your children can help you (mine did) and your kids will be proud of you
  • You can motivate your grandchildren to go to college when they see you graduate

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined.

~ Henry David Thoreau

I felt like a kid again when I graduated from college! Thank you to my family and friends for all the encouragement and support.
I felt like a kid again when I graduated from college! Thank you to my family and friends for all the encouragement and support.

How to Survive as a Mature Student

  • Get organized (calendar, note and homework organizer, place to study)
  • Realize it will take a few weeks to adjust to the new schedule
  • Keep focused
  • Don't procrastinate (keep up with homework and exams)
  • Take care of yourself (eat properly, exercise, take time out)
  • Don't compare yourself with other students
  • Ask questions when in doubt
  • Connect with other mature student at your classes or university
  • Learn how to use the technology required for your courses

I think the most important thing to a mature student's success is their motivation for going. With proper motivation, they won't have to always be reminded to do their assignments on time. Also, it is important that their spouse and/or family members are supportive. With love and support, they will not want to let others down. Most older students are generally highly motivated.

Many young students complain that the more mature students act "way too positive" and ask too many questions. In one of my classes, a couple of the students would always come and sit in the back of the classroom. While the teacher was giving the lecture, they would be talking so loudly with each other, that I could hardly hear what the teacher said. I looked around at them (hoping they would perceive my frustration) but, the talking continued. It was very upsetting. I thought to myself, why are they even coming if they don't want to listen? Then there are a few students that actually put their heads down on the desk and go sound to sleep. I am not sure why they even bothered to show up!

Perhaps some of the younger generation feel they don't have too much to look forward to with all the unemployment and unstable economy, whereas mature students have experienced many of life's ups and downs.

All-in-all, I had fun associating with and getting to know the younger students, and only a few of them made me feel like an dinosaur.

It isn't easy being an older or "mature" student, but for me it was well worth the effort.

How old were you when you graduated from college?

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