Top Fears About Going Back to College in Your 30-s(40-s) (and How to Overcome Them)

July 20, 2015

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There are many great reasons to return to school while you are in your thirties and forties. However, it would be foolish to fail to acknowledge that returning to school can be an intimidating process. In fact, many people talk themselves out of returning to school before they even attempt to enroll. This is because they allow fear to stop them before they even get started. On the other hand, many other older students dive in with both feet and enroll in school, only to become overwhelmed later on. So, what are the biggest fears expressed by non-trad students returning to school after a couple of decades, and how they can overcome these fears in practical ways.

It is too Expensive to Return to College

This is a common fear, and it is not unreasonable. However, an adult should not give up on returning to school due to financial reasons before taking several things into consideration. First, it is important to remember that there are no age requirements when it comes to applying for financial aid. So, before an older student decides that finances are going to stop them from attending college, they should fill out the FAFSA. In addition to this, they should also view the money they spend on their education as an investment, not as an expense.

Going Back to School is too Significant of a Time Commitment

There is no denying that a person who is returning to school is going to have to spend time in class, and also time out of class studying and working on assignments. However, there are ways to lessen the impact of this. Classes can be taken online. Adult students can enroll half-time. Classes can often be scheduled around family and work obligations.

It is also important to take a look at one’s entire schedule. Is it really family time that must be sacrificed in order for you to return to school? Are there other leisurely activities that can be put on the backburner?

It will be Impossible to Relate to Instructors and Other Students

This is truly a fear that older students build up in their heads. The number of older students enrolling in college each year is increasing greatly. This makes it more likely that a non-traditional, older student will not be the only student in the classroom. Even if they are, there is a good chance that their instructors and fellow students will have had older students in their classes. If you are the only older adult student in your college class, here are a few tips to follow:

  • Don’t be a sad sack. Don’t assume that you aren’t welcome due to your age or that your input isn’t wanted. If you have relevant, real world information to pass on, it will be welcome.
  • Conversely, don’t assume that you are owed any sort of reverence on the part of your fellow students or special consideration by your instructor due to your age.
  • Relax and participate in classroom discussions. In any given class period, you may learn something interesting or be exposed to something that is funny, touching, or compelling.

In other words, students won’t reject you for being older. They will reject you for denying it, or for claiming unearned privilege.

I won’t be able to Keep Up with the Material

There are many ways to ensure that you can keep up with the courses you are taking when you go back to college. First, you can avail yourself of the many services provided by your school’s student support center, and/or writing lab. You can find and join a study group. You can use note taking apps to help you take notes and to stay notified. You can also seek out the help and advice of your instructor or advisor. If you have a previous history of struggling with schoolwork, there are staff members who can help you find ways to cope with those struggles.

It will take me Years to Finish my Degree

How many years will it take for you to not finish your degree?

If you see any tangible benefit in seeking your degree, it is fully worth pursuing. You should not be persuaded to believe that you should give up on attending college due to the amount of time it will take for you to finish. First of all, even before you earn your degree, there is a great chance that you will pick up real world skills that you can use in everyday life. You can even earn certificates and other documents as you are pursuing our degree.  This can make returning to school fruitful sooner than later.

Don’t let fear stop you from returning to school. You are worth the investment, and you might see a return on that investment sooner than you realize.