ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

We Need More "Older" Students

Updated on April 15, 2012

Older Students are Often Better Students

A while ago, I was talking to a student in one of my community college courses who was in his late 40’s. In addition to taking my class, he told me that he had two jobs and was the father of three kids. This was why he was not very sympathetic when other students, who generally got lower grades than he, complained about how busy they were. This was part of a general conversation in which he was explaining why he felt out of place in his classes. Almost everyone else, after all, was so young, and they better fit the profile of the “typical” college student.

I told him that there was no reason to feel that he did not belong. If any people do not belong in college, it is many of those so-called “typical” eighteen-to-twenty-year-old college “students.” Every semester, there will always be a certain percentage of these younger students that have no business being there. In some cases, their academic abilities are not adequate for passing a college class. In even more cases, however, it seems to be more a case of immaturity. Many lack the self-discipline necessary to succeed at a level where they are expected to be more self-motivated and will no longer receive passing grades simply for sitting in a room and aging. Others lack any sense of direction or purpose. They are apparently going to college for lack of anything better to do, or they just assume that college is 13th grade, the next natural step in the process of development. As a result, they are often taking up space that could be better utilized by others, a fact that I find particularly frustrating in an age of class shortages.

Older students, on the other hand, are generally more likely to succeed. They have more of a sense of purpose, and they have often developed more emotional and intellectual maturity. In many cases, they have realized that a lack of a college degree has created limitations on their career prospects. For others, they have finally figured out what they really want to do, and they are looking to enter a career field that will be more than just a job. In short, life experiences have showed them the value of a college degree, so they tend to take things more seriously. So I say to prospective older college students everywhere: you are all welcome in my classes. There are only so many flaky eighteen-year-olds that I can stand.

As a society, we need to move away from this notion that education is something primarily for the young. College in particular should be a place set aside for those who truly have a desire to better themselves, not those who are proceeding through a system or going through a “rite of passage.” In an age where rapid change is the norm, continuous, lifelong education is a must. And in an age where educational resources are limited, we need to move away from a mindset that college is a place for people who have reached a certain age. Colleges should actively recruit older students, and younger people should be asked to consider seriously whether or not college is a place where they really want to be.

Check out my new book

I recently published an American History book that I am using in my community college survey courses. The link below will take you to a hub that provides more details:


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Believe your on to something FF; same goes for older workers so I'm told.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 5 years ago

      I try to remind myself that people should not be judged on who they are when they are 18. Failing to succeed in college as a teenager does not make a person a general failure in life. And there is no reason why people should not have a chance to try again later. It's one of the reasons why I like teaching at the community college level. Because they are open universities, it's the ultimate place for a second chance.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      I find myself in agreement with everthing that you say here.

    • Bretsuki profile image

      William Elliott 5 years ago from California USA


      Thanks for a very encoraging hub. I have personal experience of being a mature student. I went to Community College at the age of forty five. In most in seat classes I was a good twenty years older than anyone else. Also older than a few of the teachers. That was also complicated by the fact that I am a product of the English school system, very different from the US system. Anyway I succeeded and am now working on a Masters degree, five years after that first community college class.

    • profile image

      Charles Hilton 5 years ago

      I totally get where you're coming from. I didn't go to college until I was 33 and it took me eight years of night classes(while working full-time and sometimes overtime) to get my Bachelors. All the while, going through an emotionally draining divorce and custody battle that wasn't resolved till after I graduated.

      Right out of high school, most kids don't know what they want and they spend the first year or two of college constantly changing majors. That's one of the reasons it's good to spend some time in the working world to get a taste of life and a feel for what's out there in relation to what a college student would want to devote his/her studies to.

      Excellent post and voted up!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Excellent Hub and I could not agree with you more. In my fifteen plus years teaching older students are dedicated, more verbal, value their education, seek out the professor and go above and beyond the course or assignment requirements. Their are so many students who do terribly in college but at 25, 30, 35 -- they would probably be excellent students. SHARING