Adults going back to school have many factors to consider. While higher education can open the door to new career opportunities, college for adults who work may feel like a daunting endeavor. What are the pros and cons of adults returning to school, and can an adult do better in college? We’re breaking down our best advice for adults going back to college in this guide.
Pros and cons of going back to school as an adult
Any major decision is going to have pros and cons; college for adults is no different. Going back to school may both excite and terrify you, as the idea of earning more money with a degree is offset by all the work it takes to get there.
Working adults returning to college are in a much different situation than those starting school for the first time. Consider these pros and cons of adults returning to school.
Pros of being an adult learner:
- You know what you want: Now that you’ve spent time gaining work experience, you have a better idea of what you want from your career. Unlike in your younger days when you may have had career doubts, your focus is more exact, meaning you can move forward with confidence in what you want and what you need to get there.
- You have life experience: Younger students have limited perspective on the job market and how they can contribute, but you’ve been out in the real world and know what it takes to get ahead. Your past jobs have shown you what you like (and what you don’t) about working, giving you a clearer picture of your next steps.
- You can learn from your mistakes: Your past schooling and career experiences have brought valuable lessons on what you’re good at and how you can improve. Recognizing your shortcomings is a gift because you can seek out opportunities to learn and grow.
- There are more learning options now: Depending on when you were last in school, education paths may have changed dramatically. Technology has made online learning easier than ever, and additional learning services such as tutoring, test prep courses, and accelerated degrees can provide the support you lacked the first time around.
Cons of being an adult learner:
- You have personal and professional responsibilities: Your family and job obligations aren’t going to change just because you’re going back to school. In order to go to college as a parent, you’ll need to find time within your schedule and seek out education options that work for your needs.
- Your study habits are rusty: Being out of school for a while means you’re likely out of practice when it comes to education. If you haven’t hit the books in a few years, it will take some time to relearn effective study habits.
- Your technology comfort level: Whether you choose to go back to the classroom or attend an online college for adults, you’ll be met with modern technology requirements. Video lessons, learning portals, and more will ultimately enhance your learning experience, even if they take some time getting used to.
What is the benefit of going back to school as an adult?
When it comes to adults going back to school, the work is worth the reward.
Benefits for working adults returning to college include:
- Higher salary: Studies show that college graduates have significantly more earning potential over those with only a high school diploma. On average, having a degree can help you earn up to $1 million dollars more over the course of a lifetime.
- Career advancement: Some industries require advanced education in order to keep moving forward, regardless of work experience. For example, nurses must earn their degree to move from being an LPN to RN. If you’re stuck in your current role due to lack of education, going back to school is the right move.
- Personal satisfaction: Earning your degree is a huge accomplishment. This milestone can help boost your self esteem and confidence towards your career objectives. Achieving your goals has a major impact on how you see yourself and the world, and in many ways can change your life for the better.
Why should adults go back to school?
Assigning value to your education may differ depending on where you’re at in your life and career. More than ever before, adults are returning to school to better themselves and their job prospects.
In fact, a recent study showed that nearly 35% of current college students are adults aged 25 and older.
Is now the right time to go back to school? Thinking about where you’re at and where you want to go can help you decide whether the timing is right.
Going back to school at 30
In your 30s, you’ve gained workforce experience and now have a solid understanding about what it takes to succeed. Earning your degree can be the next logical step in keeping that momentum going.
School at 30 will help you:
- Gain necessary, marketable job skills
- Earn money needed to support your family, buy a home, etc.
- Keep your career moving forward
Going back to school at 40
After being in the workforce for several decades, you may be ready for a change. Whether that change means leveling up within your industry or changing careers altogether, going back to school will help you get there.
School at 40 will help you:
- Make a career change or take the next step forward
- Update your skill set
- Revitalize excitement and interest toward your industry
Going back to school at 50+
It’s never too late to learn. Students in their fifties have advantages that should not be ignored. Not only are you likely to have more discernible income at this stage, but with older kids leaving the nest, finding time for school may be easier than ever before.
School at 50+ will help you:
- Realize lifelong dreams
- Conquer a new challenge
- Recommit to your career goals
Best advice for adults going back to college
Once you make the decision to go back to school, there are ways to better set yourself up for success.
- Do your research: Every school is different, so finding a school that matches your needs is important. Research programs to find what works for your schedule and budget, aiming to find accredited schools that specifically support working adults.
- Make a plan: Going back to school is less stressful with a plan. Decide when and how you’re going to make time for coursework, making any arrangements for childcare, work, or other obligations.
- Utilize college prep services: Working adults can save time by testing out of college courses with credit by exam. With one proficiency test, you can bypass taking an entire semester-long course.
- Get support: No matter your age, college is a challenge. Having a support system through your spouse, family, friends, or fellow college students can provide the encouragement and help you need to keep going.
- Celebrate your wins: Going back to school as an adult is a challenge but recognizing your wins along the way will make the journey more enjoyable. Any time you finish a class or get a good grade, take a moment to recognize your efforts and congratulate yourself for all your hard work!
Achieve supports adults going back to school
If you’re ready to go back to school and want less stressful options, Achieve Test Prep can help. We offer test prep courses that help you test out of college courses, saving you time and money while still working towards your goals. In addition, we can help with college planning to ensure you find the right school for your goals.
Contact our Advisors to learn more!