According to the Department of Education, enrolled adults ages 20-34 are usually in college or graduate school, and young adults ages 18-19 are typically transitioning to college education. Attending college can be challenging for anyone despite their age, however, it can be even more challenging for an older student. There are some challenges to consider if you are thinking about attending college as an older student. These challenges are as follows:
- The age gap between classmates
- Competing priorities
- Utilizing updated course management tools
- Lack of student engagement
As an older college student, there is a chance that there will be an age gap between classmates and other college peers. Being surrounded by younger peers may cause older students to feel insecure. They also may feel like they do not belong on campus. Although older students may not feel comfortable in the college environment, they should work to find ways to connect with their college peers despite the age gap. This could happen by taking the time to get to know classmates. If time permits, arriving at class early or even hanging around after classes to connect with classmates is helpful. Joining a study group is also a great way to connect with classmates.
Many older students have other competing priorities that traditional college-aged students may not always experience, such as family obligations and/or full-time work. These responsibilities may cause issues with scheduling classes and other school-related activities. Mastering time management skills will be key. This includes identifying classes that meet during times that are more convenient such as at night after work hours, or classes that offer both asynchronous and synchronous learning. Some colleges may even offer classes on weekends. Joining organizations that offer online meeting options will also be helpful.
All college classes today require the utilization of technology, which includes specialized course management tools such as Canvas, Google Classroom, and Blackboard Learn. Depending on the level of technological knowledge and comfortability of an older college student, learning how to properly navigate these learning tools may be a challenge. Most colleges do offer training tools that will teach students, faculty, and campus community members how to use their respective course management systems. In addition, colleges may have a technology services department that has staff available to assist students 1:1 via a customer service phone line or chat.
Colleges and universities do a great job in gearing their first-year experience, and new student orientation planning toward traditional college students. Older students and transfer students usually do not have the best experience with being properly welcomed to the campus. Having a lackluster welcome to campus may cause older students to not have a sense of belonging, and have a lack of student engagement. This may not be the case for colleges and universities that have a larger commuter, transfer, and adult student-learner population. It is important to find a college that has a welcoming adult learner environment and values the diverse experiences that students bring to the classroom.
Benefits of attending college at a later age
Deciding to attend college as an older student is a big decision that should be celebrated. Despite the difference in age and extra responsibilities compared to younger college attendees, older students should not be discouraged from starting. Age should not be the factor that stops one from achieving their educational goals. The best way to approach a new college environment is with a positive attitude and mindset to help increase the chances of having a positive experience. The following is a guide for adults returning to college that might be a useful tool.
As an older student, there are many benefits of having more experience as an older student, such as a greater ability to focus on the task at hand compared to younger college students. In addition, the challenges of being an older student can help make the college experience much more valuable and enriching for those who want to get the most out of their degree. If you are considering attending college and have reservations because you are an older student, we are here for you, contact us today.