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College at 40

Updated on July 8, 2012
college after 40
college after 40

So you’re thinking about going to college, but you’re not sure that you can cut it at your age. I was in your shoes just 12 months ago. There I was 44 years old and contemplating a second round of schooling. At first I thought that there was no way I could pull it off. There were just too many hurdles. That’s when I decided to just take it one step at a time.

Where To Attend? This was the first decision I had to make. I knew that I wanted to teach so I need a school that offered a teaching program. The local college offered a teaching degree so I scheduled a tour. A very nice young lady showed my wife and I around the campus pointing out all the “gray haired” students. She introduced me to the tutoring center where I was assured that they could teach this old dog some new tricks. Figuring that this was the only choice I had, I signed the dotted line and enrolled in college. The process was pretty easy and I was accepted in about three days. After a month without contact from the school I called and asked to meet with my advisor so that I could get a grasp on what I was about to do. I was able to meet with my “advisor” a week later which didn’t go well. When I arrived at my “advisor’s” office I walked into a huge ego/attitude! This young professor literally looked down his nose at me and demanded an explanation as to why I was wasting his time. After verbally adjusting this young pup’s attitude I decided that this school probably wasn’t for me. I went home, did a search for online colleges and filled out several applications. Within days I had several responses and lots of choices.

Why am I telling you this tale? As an adult student you have lots of opportunities awaiting you. You don’t have to accept the first school that accepts you. Apply to more than one school and let them convince you that they will serve your needs. After all you are not a young, impressible, kid. You’ve earned your scars and deserve a great education. Quiz every school you apply to. If the admission staff can’t answer your questions with specifics, then they probably aren’t for you.

This is one of the reasons I decided to go to Western Governors University. When I called the admissions office to ask questions they assigned an advisor to me. Let’s call him Fred. Fred answered dozens of questions and if he didn’t have an answer he’d searched one out and called me back immediately. He literally tracked the process of my application and financial aid until the day I started class at which point he turned me over to a student advisor who now guides me through my courses.

Funding Your Education – If you haven’t already received a bachelor’s degree and have qualifying income this is easy. You will probably qualify for a Pell Grant and student loans. If you are attending a brick and mortar school you may also qualify for state funding and additional grants and scholarships.

To know if you qualify for federal aid you must first fill out a FAFSA. This is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You can fill this out at Even if you want to get your master’s degree you may qualify for financial aid, but you won’t know until you get the results of your FAFSA.

If you don’t qualify for federal aid, you will have to find other ways to finance your education. Sally Mae and Wells Fargo both offer educational loans for those who qualify. That said I would suggest that you pay for as much of your education as you can while you are in school. We've all known people that were still paying their student loans 10 years after graduation. Don't let that be you if you can help it.

Bear in mind that community colleges are generally cheaper than four year schools. Some online schools are extremely expensive ($26K/year is ridiculous!). This is another reason I went with WGU. WGU is a nonprofit university that allows you to complete as many courses per six month semester as you can for about $6000/year. An expensive school isn't always the best school. Find a school that meets not only you educational needs, but also your financial needs.

Before you decide on a school ask specifics of their financial aid department. Ask them for a tuition and fee schedule so that you know exactly what you are paying for. Most schools offer a flat tuition when you take a certain number of credits. This may be more expensive, but you will be able to accelerate your education saving money in the long run. You won’t know if you don’t ask questions!

Finding the Time – This has been the hardest part for me. I have my own business, I work a part time job, I volunteer at the local school, I spend time with my family, and I attend college. It’s all about scheduling. I’m writing this hub at 1:00 a.m., because I scheduled this time for writing. You have to schedule everything!

If you learn to schedule your day, you will find that there is time for study. In my case I study in the idle times between daily tasks. I find that learning to study for 30 minute intervals has been very beneficial. I can schedule several study breaks throughout my day and still keep up with daily life.

If you believe that you are too busy to attend school, sit down and schedule your day and see how much wasted time you actually have. If you cannot find time for a traditional 9-5 school then an online education may be for you, but you can make time for school.

Maturity is a Wonderful Thing

When I went to college the first time I was more interested in the "college experience" than I was in classes. As an adult student, I find that I am more focused on my class. I have a stronger desire to succeed than I did in my youth. The old saying "if I only new then what I do now" speaks volumes. Education is not only for the young. Your age, level of maturity, and experience are your biggest assets in acquiring a college degree. Don't sell yourself short.

Pulling it All Together

When deciding on a school put your interests first! Make sure that the college meets your needs not visa-versa. It’s much harder to switch schools midstream then it is to get it right the first time. Line up your financing before you start. If you don’t quality for financial aid, then look for an education that you can afford. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't obtain a degree. And lastly schedule, schedule, schedule! To make efficient use of your time you must schedule your time.

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    • collegedad profile image

      collegedad 5 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      I really enjoy going to school at my age. I now know what I want from life. Makes it easier to focus.

    • collegeafter40 profile image

      collegeafter40 5 years ago

      Great advice! I'm glad I'm not the only one going back after 40. I am constantly reminded that it was a good idea. I'm only one year into earning my degree but have never regretted it.

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 5 years ago from Ireland

      Congratulations on deciding to go back to college. A lot of your information here is very useful and you prove that doing your research in advance is wise.Voted up.

    • bankscottage profile image

      bankscottage 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Another great hub.

      My wife has earned 2 bachelor's degrees as an non-traditional student. She took some, but not all courses on-line. She really enjoyed it.

      Our oldest son screwed off in college after high school, but has since gone back to a community college and earned drafting degrees. He now works at an engineering company and is taking classes to be a civil engineer (on the GI bill and the company's dime, not mine).

      I have always enjoyed taking classes and learning new things. I have a little left over in one of my son's 529 plans. Now that he is done with school, it is mine. I plan on adding small amounts to it when I can and then use it when I retire to spend on a semester at sea. (I heard 25% of the students in a semester at sea are retired). I can't wait.

      It is not how smart you are or what your degree is in. It is how hungry you are for knowledge and advancing yourself. If you enjoy learning, follow what you enjoy and you will do well.

    • collegedad profile image

      collegedad 5 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      I can't agree with you more! Now that I'm back in college I never want to stop.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      This is an excellent hub with excellent advice. I'll be 68 in August and often think about going back to school to get a Masters in Education. A person is never too old to continue learning!