Back to School…Over 50

working on computerIt’s that time of year. Students everywhere getting ready to go back to school. What about you? Whether it’s that degree you always wanted to or some courses you’d really like to take, going back to school over 50 can be very rewarding.

In my 50s, I returned to school to get a PhD, and in my 60s I went back again for another Master’s. My interest in learning has only grown stronger as I grow older. What I learned about learning at this stage in life may encourage you.

You can be a better student now than when you were younger. I shudder to think of the grades I got in my 20s. They were a reflection of the many parties, club nights, and other distractions that were part of campus life. That’s no longer an issue for us. Now you are more focused and you know what you want. Your life experience has made you better organized and disciplined. You have stronger communication skills than many young people who are dependent on the use of acronyms and emoticons. And your life skills—like problem solving—transfer effectively into the classroom.

Still, after more than 20 years, becoming a student again can seem daunting. You have to allow yourself an adjustment period. I was in a panic my first semester. My brain didn’t seem to work in the beginning. There was so much to comprehend. I was timid about contributing to class discussions. And I felt like a fish out of water with classmates who seemed to absorb the material much faster than I could. Thankfully, things started to fall into place by the following term.

How to stack the odds in your favor? Consider online learning. It’s come a long way and many well-known universities now offer classes or entire degree programs online. There are some real advantages for the older student. First, you won’t have to worry about sitting in a room filled with people the age of your grandchildren. The online learning environment removes visual triggers and puts everyone on the same plane. Second, you won’t have the added stress of memorization as most tests are open book. Third, you can work at whatever time of day best suits you, and you don’t have lugs books around or commute.

If you aren’t really comfortable using a computer and the Internet, online learning may not be the path to take. But if a computer is already part of your daily life, online learning is a fantastic way to go back to school. Open new doors. Quench your thirst for knowledge. Prepare for a new career. Whatever your goal, now is the perfect time to go back to school!

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