When's the best time to go to college?
Most people would probably think the answer is "right after high school." And embedded in that belief is the implication that, if you didn't finish school by age 22, it's probably too late. Right?
Wrong. The correct answer is that the best time to go to college (whether returning or for the first time) is "right now." This answer is because, simply put, the benefits of attaining a college degree can be realized at any age. For lots of working adults, that can mean pursuing a degree at 40 or beyond.
There are plenty of reasons to never close the door on going back to school. From a career standpoint, the dual motivators of improved earnings potential and job satisfaction are still very much in play for the midlifer. So too are the possibilities of continuing to climb the ladder when managers are looking for something above an associate's degree, or if you're just wanting to make a shift to a brand-new job type or industry.
You might also have reasons to attend college later in life that can be less pragmatic but no less personal. Maybe you want to become more educated and well-rounded as a person. Maybe you want to set an example for your children. Maybe you once made a promise to someone to finish what you started.
While it may feel like each passing day makes it harder, not easier, to return to school, the opposite is actually true. To understand why, consider the role that technology increasingly plays in higher education. As technology continues to advance, its impact on educational opportunities expands, and perhaps nowhere has this been more acutely true than in the case of online college degree programs.
The ability to attend classes when, how, and where it fits your schedule has been a paradigm-shifting innovation in higher education. For midlifers with jobs, kids, or other obligations, it can even be the difference between being able to go back to school or not. If you think about it, that's pretty powerful.
But no matter whether you decide to attend an online university or a local one, you'll improve your chances for success if you do the right research and ask the right questions ahead of time. Be sure to know things like how long your degree will take to complete, how much it will cost, whether you qualify for financial aid, and how you should manage your life to keep everything in balance. Taking a major step like going to college is too substantial to do any other way than with eyes wide open.
Whatever your reasons and whatever your approach, attending school after 40 can pay off in many ways. What's most important is that you believe you can do it.
Written by University Staff