Why Return to School Later in Life: A Personal Account
Does age make a difference?
When I graduated from high school many years ago, I was passionate about becoming a writer and I was going to go to college to study what I needed to study to become one. Within the first year, I decided I also wanted to be a fashion designer, a weather girl and a pilot. I was young, full of energy and full of ideas but I was never able to focus on just one thing and my grades suffered because of it. I never achieved any of those dreams I had back then. Perhaps it was partly because of lack of money and partly because of lack of commitment, but by the time I had obtained my associates degree I was burnt out and decided I was done with school for the time being. I never intended on waiting until I was over 30 to return to school, but that is what happened and I find myself much more focused and maintaining excellent grades. Returning to school later in life might seem more challenging, however I believe age can be a benefit rather than a downfall.
What is your excuse?
Returning to school after the age of 30 was so different than when I first started college at age 18, from the atmosphere to my personal drive, and even my reasons for pursuing a degree. When I was fresh out of high school, I went to college because that was what was expected of me. I never planned on doing anything else. I enjoyed it, but I struggled. I loved my classes, but I was also wrapped up in my personal life and trying to maintain friendships with kids who had gone to schools far away.
There was also the money issue. I had heard horror stories about college kids in debt and the last thing I wanted to do was take out a loan. Because of my parents’ income, I did not qualify for financial aid, yet they did not contribute a dime to my education. I worked an average of 60 hours a week on top of going to school full time and used all of my money to pay for my classes. After earning my associates degree I knew I couldn’t manage it anymore because I was living on my own and had to work to pay for rent and bills and food. I put finishing my degree on hold.
When I turned 30 I found out that I had cancer for the first time. That is when I started to finally take life more seriously. I wanted to do something that made a difference. I started doing fundraisers for different charities but that never felt like enough. I knew I always had a soft spot for emotionally troubled people and wanted to help them in some way but I never really knew what I could do. It was then that I realized I had to further my education and learn how to make a difference.
How has being an older student helped?
Returning to school so many years later was a very different experience. I was working full time and I had requested to adjust my schedule by 15 minutes one day a week so that I could take one class. My request was not granted and that is when I looked into online classes. I was skeptical at first because I didn’t grow up during a time where computers were used much in school, and the internet was not used at all. My worries were soon irrelevant though; once I learned my way around the online classroom I absolutely loved it.
As a more mature individual entering school, I was first of all able to justify taking out a loan to pay for my classes and even became eligible for a bit of financial aid. My mind, due to age and probably stress from the cancer, seemed more tired and it was harder to concentrate than it was when I was 18. However at the same time I was more focused and I actually wanted to put more effort into my work. I took pride in my assignments and my grades in a way I never had before. Maybe it took year after year of being unhappy in my meaningless jobs for me to realize the value of an education and the benefits of performing well in school. So far my attitude and drive have paid off and I have maintained straight A’s with less than a year of classes to go. Finishing my degree, something I couldn’t bring myself to do when I was younger, I am excelling at all these years later in ways I never imagined were possible.