Never too old for a Degree

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Most tricenarians—people in their thirties—find themselves in a place of stability for the first time in their lives. Newfound stability is accompanied by starting a family, marriage, purchasing a home, and having a steady job. According to Boston College, people in their late 20s and early 40s experience lower levels of job satisfaction than other age groups, making the 30s the ideal time to change career paths.

Tricenarians might go back to school to finish their degree, obtain a different degree, or start a Master’s program. Higher education is the most valuable resource in a rapidly changing workforce where specialized skills and expertise thrive. Regardless of the reason, it’s the perfect time to take on the challenge.

What to consider when going back to school

Time is of the essence; going back to school is a significant commitment, especially with a full-time job and family. Going to college means taking time to attend class, studying, working on assignments, and meeting with classmates for group projects. Balancing family, work, and other obligations puts a tight strain on a student’s schedule.

When students know the degree they want they narrow down the type of education best suits educational needs. A student interested in psychology may find psychology are only available at night at their local university. Online classes and degrees are also available for students who prefer going to college from home. Many universities offer accelerated Master’s programs in the evening for students with 9-5 jobs.

Adrian Ridner, the CEO and Co-Founder of Study.com told us, “It can be challenging for someone in their 30s to go back to college because of all of the responsibilities they have. However, it is possible to earn a college degree while still balancing family and job commitments thanks to options like on-demand, online courses.”

Staying organized and managing time

Time management is the key to balancing work, family, and school in your 30s. Technology makes time management easier than ever with online calendars, e-books, and to-do lists.

The best time management strategy is to take advantage of any free time that is available during the day. Taking a ride (instead of driving) to school or work gives students an opportunity to read or study during their long commute. Taking a one hour lunch at work to study or do homework could be a time saver. Reading and writing papers when children are asleep maximizes focus.

Make education a family activity

Family time is in the most danger of being eliminated when making time for school and work. In an ideal world, most students would cut back on work hours and spend more time with their families. In reality, it’s difficult enough to balance family and work without adding family to the mix.

The easiest way to spend time with family is to set time aside. Taking time a few hours a week to spend time with family is possible with a weekly plan and a precise schedule. It’s crucial to take study breaks, making it the perfect time to have a family dinner or going for a walk.

Children and spouses can help their student study by helping with flashcards for vocabulary word style learning. Discussing course material with spouses and children help reinforce retention. Having a planned and designated study time set aside helps spouses and children know when it’s time to be quiet. They could spend quality time with a movie night while the student studies, then meet later when the homework is finished.

Adam Cole was married with four children (two toddlers, an elementary school student, and a teenager) when he returned to college to pursue his second Bachelor’s degree in Music and later Master’s. Cole says, “In a couple of cases, I had to take one or more of my children to classes with me, which was fun for everyone when we were studying Elementary Music Education!”

College is a more rewarding experience later in life

Students going to school in their thirties have advantages over students transitioning to college straight from high school. Older students have real-world work experience and the ability to manage time accordingly, while younger students struggle with procrastination. Older students are more financially stable, while younger students tend to have trouble finding money for college.

When comparing his first experience in college to his return in his mid-30s, Cole said, “When I was in college the first time, I was a B-student, bright but not particularly motivated to excel.  When I went to college the second time, I graduated Summa Cum Laude (with four kids!)…In short, where I thought it would be really hard, it turned out, with the cooperation of my wife and family, to be an incredible experience.”

This article was contributed by the Columbia community. To contact the contributors of this article, please email us.

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