I don't know why they call them "mature" students
January 22, 2019 11:05 AM   Subscribe

I've never been to university but I am strongly considering enrolling for an undergraduate degree in geography (at age 33) next year to further my career goals and put an end to a period of my life where I've been just 'surviving'. If you went to university at a later age than most, what do you wish you'd known before you went? Was it worth it for you? What advice would you give? (Even if it's "don't!")

I am in my early 30s and never went to university at the "expected" time for various reasons. I've spent a lot of time thinking about it over the past year or two and I think it's about the right time. I want to work with mapping and GIS, I've researched job opportunities in the sector and found and talked to people doing the jobs I want to do, and it feels like a degree in geography would be interesting and challenging and would (along with stuff I do personally with open-source projects) give me a leg up in the job market.

I had a career in a different field from leaving school until about 2014 when it came to an end because of cutbacks. The end of that career coincided with a period of bad health and since then I've been bumbling around temporary and contract jobs to survive. If I am going to move forward with my life, I need something on my CV that's not just a succession of temp gigs, that shows I'm serious and working towards a goal.

I have minimal outgoings and I'm probably in a financial position to go, as I don't have a mortgage to pay and don't have any children or dependents. Depending where I go, I'll either move back in with parents for the duration or find somewhere cheap and small to live while I'm studying. I have A-levels but they're from 2002 so I understand I'll probably have to do some kind of access course before starting - I'd like that to not be a full year if possible.

What I'd like to know is what I should be looking for in a university as a 30-something undergraduate? I've booked to attend a few open days that are specifically for 'mature students' at some universities in the region, mainly because I've no real idea what to expect. I feel like the fact that a few places are putting on specific events for older students is a good sign that they take it a bit more seriously. But I obviously want to look beyond the university sales pitch and understand what it's really like.

One university's course itself ticks a lot of boxes for me, the department has a great reputation and it's in a great location, but the fact that there's absolutely zilch on their website about mature students or lifelong learning is a red flag. Should I discount it because they don't specifically make any mention of catering for older students?

If you went to university as an adult, what do you wish you knew that you didn't know at the time? Did you find it worth it in the long run? Did it get you to where you wanted to be? How did you find studying and working alongside people much younger than you? Any advice would be much appreciated! (Especially UK-specific advice, as I live in England.)
posted by winterhill to Education (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I went back, in the US, at age 25. I did a year at a state school and then transferred to a top-10 school with a program for adult students. I also looked at transferring to a few good schools without such a program.

The "non-traditional" program was a big part of the decision for me, but I ranked school quality above that while I was looking. For my day-to-day education, I was mostly in classes with traditional-aged students. There were a couple of night classes that I took that gave first priority to the non-traditional students, but also had some traditional-aged students.

I loved having the program, it gave me a comfort level and also a peer group. There were "mature" students up to people in their 60's (ish). That's something that was missing at the state school I attended (state school meaning public university, still requires admission acceptance but is very low cost compared to private universities). At the state school, there was a larger age range generally, but it was harder to find a peer group.

In terms of how it was generally going back - the initial transition was tough, as I had to get back into learning how to study and write. But it was a great experience. I was more focused and disciplined than the younger students, which helped give me a leg up. I ended up going another year for a Masters in my field, had a job lined up when I graduated, and am now in a stable career, supporting myself with a fun lifestyle.

While there are differences between US/UK higher education, I think most of what I've said would hold true regardless of where you live. Whether it's worth it for you will depend on the university you go to, the opportunities that you'll be able to get from specifically going to that university, how diligently you apply yourself, and the cost of tuition vs the pay you'll be able to get with the degree. This last point in particular was key for me, as I was able to make the same money while in school with part-time work as I'd been making before, and the first year after graduation made 5x that. My student loans aren't as bad as some of my peers because I was able to get financial aid based on my income rather than my parents.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:26 AM on January 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I enrolled earlier than most but graduated later. This gave me an unusual perspective, I think. Then later, I enrolled in law school at an older age than most of my classmates. The bottom-line principles are exactly what you'd expect: I got more out of the education as an older student with more maturity and experience to contextualize it, but I also felt more impatience with some of the mind-numbing aspects of the process and wished I'd done things earlier so I could be further along. One caveat is that my experiences were with professional programs, not a more generalized liberal arts curriculum nor anything academic. Maybe I'd feel differently. I don't think so.

My answer to your specific question—about how to choose a program—is to "walk the land." I ruled out two law schools immediately just by visiting their campuses and walking around. I could tell immediately that I wouldn't feel comfortable as an older student. I don't care what's on the school's website or other promotional materials. Walk around campus and see it during a normal class week. Does it feel like a high school (secondary school), or does it feel like a diverse and thriving university?

As to your abstract questions—what do I wish I'd known, etc—I don't mean to be trite when I say you can find excellent answers by reading a few randomly selected celebrated commencement speeches. There are tons. They're everywhere. Some have been turned into songs. Knowing the advice isn't hard. We all do. Internalizing it and behaving accordingly is a different story. For instance, you know the value of networking, and you'll promise yourself, "When I get there, I'm going to do all the social events and get to know everybody!" As an older student, sometimes it'll be challenging to incorporate that into your daily life. You're old enough and experienced enough to know to treat school like a 9–5 job and not stress or burn out, but the younger students aren't and don't, so coordinating your social life with theirs may be tricky. Similarly, you'll plan to take advantage of every academic opportunity; but there were class conversations I walked out on because I wasn't interested in hearing a bunch of 22-year-olds' chatty opinions on a particular subject.

Did it get you to where you wanted to be?

Yes. And maybe that's the best advantage to being an older student: you aren't doing it because it's the next domino. Instead, you're making an informed decision with the benefit of life experience that this is what you want to do with X-dollars and Y-years. I'm really glad I made those decisions. In fact, they worked out so well that I'm contemplating another one now.
posted by cribcage at 11:35 AM on January 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Do it. I went to college for the first time when I was 41, and five years later was making double what I'd been making before (on my last job).
You *might* want to take a couple of refresher courses first, just to get used to the studying routine, but I had a blast with the whole experience. For most of my classes, I was the oldest in the class, and I found it very easy to relate to/become study buddies with younger people.
I think maturity gives us a better ability to focus on what's important, and study in ways that we know will work for us. I took extensive notes by hand, then re-typed and put into a binder so it was easy to study from that. You'll find a method.
Have fun!
posted by dbmcd at 11:36 AM on January 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you already have A-Levels, and have a clear interest in your subject you probably don't need to do an access course (and may not get funding for one). Contact your local university's geography department and see what they say. I'd lean towards saying that one of the post-1992 universities might be more accommodating, but actually a lot of redbricks are pretty helpful too.

It is difficult to say whether this will be a net financial benefit to you or not. I lean towards probably, and it's a great way of getting a new career. One thing to consider is financing. Don't worry about a student loan (the way the UK ones are set up, it's better to think of it as extra tax rather than a conventional loan). Instead consider that the total amount you will qualify for is probably slightly less than you can reasonably live on independently with housemates. You might want to restrict your university search to ones genuinely commutable to your parents house if they really will have you living with them for 3+ years, or to places with a low cost of living (eg Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Hull)
posted by plonkee at 11:46 AM on January 22, 2019

I did a bit of both. I went straight to a university at 17 after finishing secondary school but a few years later I disenrolled before completing a degree; instead I went to work in my field (computers, in a capacity which did not require a degree) and worked for seven or so years before returning to school and finishing my degree.

Part of my experience was no doubt unique to my own personal circumstances but I want to encourage you by telling you: for me, school was so much better and I got so much more out of my university programs when I went back as an adult. I was there because I wanted to be (and because I had made a conscious decision to be there) not because I simply wound up there by default. I had better life skills and a more developed work ethic. And I had so much more experience to which I could relate the material I was learning.

The second time around I didn't participate in the social aspects of university in the same way -- most of my "college friends" are from the first period -- but academically I did so much better with a few more years of life under my belt.

Good luck to you!
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:46 AM on January 22, 2019

I went back when I was 31 for an ecology diploma but dropped into it slowly doing two papers extra-mural first - I recommend this and you can often go to block course at the uni and scope it out from the inside. That was okay - it was a smallish rural uni and classes were well-behaved and quite mature in outlook, even if young.

I found that life experience enabled me to ask deep probing questions and really gain a lot from it. Younger students weren't able to see the world like that. Oh yeah I took all notes by hand too, much better retention and you can quickly scribble in the margins.

Another benefit - before I went back I could barely read my own writing, afterwards I could write fast and reasonably logically, and I can still read my notes decades later.

Then went again at 36 to do my landscape degree - my class was one third 30 plus, a third 20 to 30, with school leaves the remainder. Half of them just wanted to party and I had a few harsh interactions where I told people to shut the F up. It was all a lot better after year one, where our class sizes shrank back down to core landscape studies.

By the end the school leavers that remained were about par with the most mature students and we were basically teaching each other.

I'm not making much money but am doing more or less what I want workwise.

Re GIS\spatial studies - I know from my own work that the most incisive spatial thinkers in the UK seem to be at Sheffield University and UCL.
posted by unearthed at 11:47 AM on January 22, 2019

Can't speak to the UK part as am in the US. Am currently in grad school getting my MFA in my 50s. I did go to college at the typical time and this is a second graduate program but I'm older than most (not all!) of the people in my program. Do visit programs and talk frankly with them about it. I wanted to know that I wasn't the only older student. I feel far better able to juggle things - time management and deep research come more easily to me now than when I was an undergraduate or a grad student with young kids. I think going to school as a mature adult gives one more tools to digest the material and do more with it.

Good to not be the only older student - and you likely won't be. Does your potential program deal with the realities of working adults in terms of schedule, other commitments, resources to help navigate it all? When I was last in school it was a program primarily geared for working adults - classes in evenings and weekends for one thing. If you're going full time that might be less of an issue.
posted by leslies at 11:51 AM on January 22, 2019

I started college in the US at 25. Because I was older, I had convinced myself I needed to finish as quickly as possible. I did that completing my four year degree in three years, but when I got to graduate school I discovered I was not as well prepared as I should have been. Had I accepted that I would spend four years as an undergraduate and not tried to game the system as much as I did, that first year of grad school might have been a little easier.
posted by maurice at 12:47 PM on January 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I started my undergrad degree at the usual time after high school, finished it ten years later as an early thirtysomething then went on to grad school. Taking that break was great because when I came back, I was in the right frame of mind for the academic experience. Being as student wasn't my whole being and identity like it was in my twenties, it was more compartmentalized, like a job. Which happens to fit right into the profit-driven philosophy at most institutions these days.
If you bring actual work experience to the table and don't spend so much time on the social stuff, you can access more of the professional aspects of academia (teacher/research assistant work, admin jobs), which can lead to more interesting learning opportunities like labs, conferences and publications. If I had one advice for a returning student, it would be that: get that cheddar. Use your real life skills and CV to beat the kids to the good jobs and get paid for as many hour/tuition dollar you spend there.
posted by Freyja at 12:56 PM on January 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Congrats on this decision, and this opportunity!

More tangential US anecdotes - for some reason, at my undergrad college, Landscape Architecture was a five year program (5th year was dedicated to your senior project). But perhaps more unusual was that in the 2nd year, we lost about 1/3rd or maybe even 1/2 of the typical students who went straight from high school on to their undegrad, but the class was expanded with non-traditional students of a range of ages. As one of the "domino" students (borrowing cribcage's term, thanks!), I was just going on to the next thing, but these students were more intentionally choosing this as their future career.

In comparison, when I changed majors, I was a few years older than my City and Regional Planning colleagues, who were all "domino" students. There was a Masters program for CRP, but that was a class of maybe a dozen students, max. I felt a bit out of step with most of the undergrads, who had all been in courses together for a year already, but it wasn't the worst.

I think the benefit of having a school that focuses on "mature students" is that they might have more of a support system for people who haven't been continuously in school, which helps set your mind up for studying (in theory, at least). It might take you time to get back into the groove, but if this is something that interests you, and you have the ability to go to school full-time, then it shouldn't be too bad to get re-accustomed to learning being your job.

In short: if you're concerned about being the oldest person in the classroom, besides the professor, look for colleges that have a more diverse student body. Otherwise, enjoy being past the age where partying is a more normal part of the college experience, and you can focus more on your studies.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:01 PM on January 22, 2019

Hi! I am a 33-year-old woman, half-way through my first bachelors degree (in science!). Not in the UK though.

I initially attempted university just after leaving high school because I had nothing else to do, more or less. It was a spectacular failure, and I bailed out after a year. After getting stuck in a cycle of crappy job after crappy job, I realised that I probably needed to get a qualification to pull me out of it and to get a job I actually wanted, so after a lot of agonising and a strange twist of fate I decided to go back to school. Aside from the odd day that makes me want to give it all up to go work at Pizza Hut again, I've never regretted it. One of the benefits of being older is that I do find I'm more focused and realistic about my goals, so on days where I'm really struggling it is easy for me to remember why I started and kick my own ass back into gear. I am so much more intentional and it drives me.

I didn't really have a choice of schools. There are two universities in my city, and it became pretty obvious after a small amount of research that the more prestigious one was going to require me to jump through stupid, classist hoops, as well as go through some other nonsense, which I was too weary and too smart to bother with. So I ended up at the less prestigious but also less stodgy and far more diverse university, which makes me feel way more comfortable. I am more than satisfied with my 'choice'. There was a seminar at the beginning of my first year for mature students which I found to be really helpful, but aside from that, I don't think mature students are specially catered for here. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything though - if I need support I talk to the other people in my papers or go straight to my lecturers depending on the issue. The fact that my university is generally very diverse means I never feel out of place. Having said that, I do get a bit sick of the "You're all straight from high school, you silly little kittens, you don't understand how to exist yet!" rhetoric that we occasionally get from some of our lecturers, and orientation week was one long lesson in surviving condescension. Where feedback is asked for, I do suggest to them they remember that 40% of the people they are teaching aren't straight from high school and this is super fucking patronising. However, I have to be aware of the chip on my shoulder about being old, surrounded by people who are getting their shit together way earlier than I did, then adjust my attitude for that.

At my university (and country in general), mature is considered anyone beginning a degree over the age of 21, so I mostly don't worry about the label itself. That's about 40% of people enrolled at my uni! While my age puts me closer to one end of the spectrum, there are many people in my cohort considerably older than I am. Though I have naturally gravitated toward other students closer to my age over time, I still study and socialise with students straight from high school. Sometimes I struggle with current youth culture and find it difficult to connect with certain classmates because of it, but it's ok, I just don't hang out with them. Some of the other mature students are arrogant, bigoted assholes who I also avoid, so it's not really about how old people are. The majority of my cohort are really lovely, switched on people, regardless. For the most part, we get to choose who we study with when the dreaded group assignments roll around. In times I don't get to choose, I try to make the best of it. They will try to tell you that group assignments are great practice for the real world! As someone who has been a part of the real world for over a decade, you'll see through this like a threadbare lace curtain.

I had to do a foundation year before I started my bachelors, which was definitely a bit frustrating but necessary for something like science, where they need you to have a certain level of understanding before going in. Overall I am glad - it gave me a chance to figure out what study and note-taking systems were best for me, and gave me time to get back into a critical thinking mindset. It was hard to be positive about it at the time though - I'm old, you know? Adding an extra year to my degree in both time and money sucked.

Obviously, I am not out the other side yet but I have no delusions about graduate life - I'll be lucky to make 50 cents above minimum wage for the first couple of years. Eventually, it will pay off though. I did a lot of research before jumping in, and ultimately chose my particular major because (as well as being genuinely interested in it) it has better opportunities and rates of pay for graduates. I present as younger than I really am, so am hoping that ageism isn't something I have to deal with immediately upon graduating.

Something else I will mention is networking. This sort of stuff does not come naturally to me but I know that aside from trying my hardest to learn the material, forming relationships with lecturers/professors etc. is the most valuable use of my energy. As a school leaver, there is no way I would have gone to mixer events or bothered trying to connect with academic staff. I'm not talking about sucking up or being one of 'those' mature students, just having a conversation occasionally and showing you give a shit is enough. I truly believe this is one of my best insights as a mature student - knowing that my future self will benefit from these relationships I'm building now. I've also joined a club (18-year-old me is cringing so hard right now) for women in STEM which is an excellent source of opportunities for both social and professional activities.

On a more personal note, it has been difficult sometimes in regards to my friendships and relationship. Everyone is super supportive of me but I am basically back to being a poor student, and simply don't have the disposable cash that I used to. I work but I keep it to a minimum so it doesn't cut into my studies, so there is a lot of "Oh, that sounds great, but things are a bit tight at the moment. Sorry, I won't be able to make it". My partner and I do less stuff because he can't always afford to pay for me as well as him to do things. It has led to some tense moments, and I do feel like a burden sometimes. Not to mention the uncomfortable feelings that arise from our situation strongly enforcing gender roles, and my having to justify it to myself constantly so I don't feel like a "bad" feminist. If I were less secure in my relationship, it would be a big problem I think.

Good luck with your studies!
posted by BeeJiddy at 1:40 PM on January 22, 2019

You might want to restrict your university search to ones genuinely commutable to your parents house if they really will have you living with them for 3+ years, or to places with a low cost of living (eg Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Hull)
Thank you for your answer! I'm close to someone who went to one of those universities (Teesside) and it was by all accounts a terrible experience for them - lecturers not showing up with no notice, rubbish broken IT facilities, and they generally weren't happy with the quality of a lot of the teaching, although this was in a different subject. They graduated and still aren't working (at all). At least they have a nap room in the students' union. I'm very wary of some universities that seem to be all fancy buildings but low quality. When I visited them there a few times, the whole place seemed a bit rough and night times were downright scary - fights and such. My car got a window smashed.

I have a few specific universities and courses in mind because they have good reputations. I'm restricting my search to places in the North of England and the Midlands for cost reasons and so that I'm not a zillion miles away from my parents and sister who are all in various bits of the North West. (I currently live in West Yorkshire.) I'm not considering anywhere miles away (like Scotland) or prohibitively expensive (like London), however good the university might be.
posted by winterhill at 2:45 PM on January 22, 2019

Sorry, I forgot to mention that Sheffield and Keele are my top two choices, in no particular order. I used to work in Sheffield and went to quite a lot of stuff at the university and always found the campus pleasant, and the course I want to do has an excellent reputation. Keele again has a lovely, diverse campus (out-of-town unlike Sheffield), the geography department is well regarded in the outside world and it's close to my parents' house.

There are others, but those are the two that have sprung out to me in terms of "yes, I could see myself there". Am I setting my sights too high?

All your answers are so wonderful and helpful, by the way! :)
posted by winterhill at 3:04 PM on January 22, 2019

My advice is to go full-time, and get through it as quickly as you can, if you're positioned to do that. I went back in my 30s and dragged my studies out over years. Unexpected events relating to a parent (for whom I'm now partially responsible) threw me off in a major way. I then had my own health issues as well, and I just... haven't been able to get it finished. Certain curveballs could happen any time, but are more likely when you're in your 30s. (What shape are your parents in, are they physically, emotionally, and financially ok?)

Regarding younger students - I had no problem with them, most were lovely (and actually way more together and focused than my actual cohort was, when I did my first degree).

Coursework is easier than it probably would have been had you gone earlier, because you've got work habits, you're used to being responsible for outcomes, etc. Plus, you've got a clear focus, which always helps.

Universities that welcome mature students are more likely to have evening course availability, part-time options, and some kind of student support. If they're not advertising that, you'll likely be expected to run through the program like their more typical demographic would (daytime courses, full time, fewer options).

Am I setting my sights too high?

Not if you get in :)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:10 PM on January 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

What shape are your parents in, are they physically, emotionally, and financially ok?
For now. They are both still working, although my dad is retired and only works part-time and is having increasingly lengthy periods off work sick, mostly with back pain. I'm not sure for how much longer he'll be able to continue keeping up with work. I'm not sure how he'll cope when he can't work any more - he really enjoys the work he does now and it seems to keep him going. Financially, they have no problems - they both have generous public-sector pensions from the days when such things were the norm. My mum is in great health and will probably still be outrunning me up the mountains when she is in her 70s!

Something that concerns me with the "moving back into my parents' house" scenario is that I'll end up de facto expected to take on caring responsibilities if my dad does deteriorate. But that could be an issue wherever I live - at least if I'm there, I won't have to continually use up entire days travelling back and forth from another part of the country.
posted by winterhill at 4:15 PM on January 22, 2019

USA here. Got my undergrad at 35, my masters at 37.

I don't know what the culture is like in UK schools, but when I went to a public university in the US, I was just another student. It probably helps that most people seem to think I look a bit younger than I am, so I didn't stand out too much in terms of age. If anyone brought up age or "maturity" it was probably me because I was self-conscious about it.

You may be able to pull it off, but I wasn't able to work a part time job and keep up with my full time studies.

I also was in the position of taking care of the upkeep of my childhood home (parent passed away with teenager still living at home). I just used the meager social safety net available in the states to supplement my income (student loans).

I was a much, much, much better student in my 30's than I was in my 20's because I knew what I wanted. I also wasn't out partying all the time. This let me keep up with my younger peers despite some of my own deficiencies in the subject (physics, I'm not great at math).

College students in their 20's are kind of annoying, but it was also fun being around younger people who are also interested in the same kinds of subjects I am. I didn't really make any close friends, but I never had any problems with anyone either.
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:08 PM on January 22, 2019

USA here, got my undergraduate in my late 20s. Started in a community college transfer program, then transferred to a prestigious university to study a moderately demanding subject.

I struggled hard my first year after transferring, because I had been running a household/taking care of other people for so long that I forgot how to prioritize anything else. I continued prioritizing those things over my schoolwork for awhile, which meant I didn't devote the time I needed to studying, writing papers, attending office hours, getting to know my classmates, exploring activities. My grades suffered, I didn't feel like I belonged or was doing the right thing, and I actually got asked by a professor I admired greatly to leave my program and choose another less-demanding one. That was a painful and humiliating but very necessary wake-up call for me--I share it here in hopes you don't have to experience it.

I recovered with the help of an academic advisor who guided me toward a different program that still put me on my desired path (there's another thing I wish I'd learned earlier: there are SO many resources available to you, use the heck out of them!), and set boundaries for myself at home to make sure I carved out time for academic work.

From there my path was still pretty twisted: I ended up taking a volunteer-for-credit position with the university to spend more time on campus, which led to me realizing that that field--not my major--was actually my passion. I still finished my degree, pursued the other thing for several years, and am now thriving in a third, completely different field.

When I tell people that story they often ask if I regret putting in all the effort and going into massive debt (America sucks) for a degree I don't actually use. And honestly, I don't. Yeah, the debt sucks a lot. But for one thing, I learned a lot about myself, and what's important to me and how to prioritize myself over others. For another, I now have a degree from a prestigious university on my resume. No one ever cares what the degree was actually in, and having it on my resume (for better or worse) has opened up a lot of doors that would have otherwise been closed to me. One of those open doors led directly to my current career, where I am wildly happy.

In conclusion: It's hard, make time for it if it's important to you, use every dang resource at your disposal, the benefits will probably be much greater than just the degree you get. Also America sucks.
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:40 PM on January 22, 2019

I've been a mature or non-traditional student, have taught mature students, and am now a librarian at a university that enrolls many older students. In the US, and probably in other other countries, it has become much more common for people beyond the traditional university age to enroll in university programs. Professors generally like having them as they take their studies more seriously, are not afraid to ask questions in class, and generally participate more in class discussions than traditional young students. You most likely will be one of several mature students in your program. The mature students at my university, from what I can tell, often give each other support and encouragement. You'll be fine.

I am, however, wondering why you don't just find an online GIS Certificate program. I know they exist in the US. Here's one that is probably very good.
posted by mareli at 5:31 AM on January 23, 2019

I am, however, wondering why you don't just find an online GIS Certificate program. I know they exist in the US. Here's one that is probably very good.
I've looked into them, but my CV over the past few years is a bit patchy - with only radio experience and no degree, temp/casual work is often the only way to survive and that brings with it the dreaded CV Gaps. Being able to say that yes, I had a dodgy few years but I went to university and came out with a degree feels a bit like being able to hit the "reset button" and start again career-wise.

The linked course costs over $10,000 which would pay for a year of full-time tuition at a UK university, with the added advantage that UK tuition is a loan which is paid back when you start working rather than an upfront fee.

I'd also like to go to university and prove to myself that I am capable of earning a degree even though I didn't take a traditional path when I was younger, which feels like a positive aim in itself.
posted by winterhill at 5:49 AM on January 23, 2019

US-based. I tried college a year after graduating high school. It was a great party year, and as a result I was asked politely by the college to go find myself elsewhere then come back when I was serious. A couple years later I unexpectedly became pregnant, had a kid, tried college prereq. classes while the kid was young = really challenging to do so as single parent, I didn't do well grade-wise. Finally, much later, I got into a specific Assoc. degree program in my late 40s and LOVED it! I live(d) in my own home, kid is grown and out so no other people to have to focus my attentions on, and while I sometimes felt like a dork because I don't know all the hip/new social stuff, I also found that my life experience filled out discussions in class that the younger students just didn't have yet. If you can, go for it!
posted by mcbeth at 7:45 AM on January 23, 2019

Speaking as a college professor for 20+ years I wish I could find a way to impart to non-traditional students how welcome they are. They are more responsible, engaged, and interesting. I love older students. Everyone does. We celebrate you. We want you in our classes. If you really want to make your professor fall in love, go up after the first day of class and introduce yourself as a returning student who is happy to be in their class. They will swoon. I'm in the US, it could be different there, but I doubt it.
posted by orsonet at 6:11 PM on January 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

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