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Why to Pursue a College Degree Later in Life

Imagine, for a moment, being a part of the work force for several years — only to be downsized, outsourced or otherwise pushed out of your job. For the millions of out-of-work Americans affected by the recession and a weakened economy, this scenario unfortunately has become all too familiar.

The current changes in the job market have caused many people to revisit the idea of going to college — particularly for those who have spent years in the work force as high school graduates. And while pursuing a degree later in life might sound daunting, there are some good reasons to consider earning your undergraduate degree even if you are a seasoned employee.

college ahead

Why Going to College Makes Sense in Your Later Years
The job marketplace is increasingly competitive, and employers are not necessarily retaining workers just because they have longevity with a company. If you do not have a college degree and are pitted against a co-worker who does, all other things being equal, then the degreed worker has the upper hand.

There are other solid reasons to consider earning a college degree. When you go to college after you have been working in the “real world,” you already have a good idea of your passions, talents and desired skill sets. Instead of getting a degree in a field that you might not necessarily love once you are working in it, you can earn a degree in your true area of interest.

One of the best reasons of all to obtain a college degree later is that you will be attending college with the feeling that you actually want to be there. Instead of going to classes and thinking about the frat party coming up this weekend, you are likely to be focusing on your studies.

Simply put, you will rejuvenate yourself with a new found interest in your chosen area of study while taking care of any unfinished business from your youth. In short, you will walk away from your college experience with not only a degree, but also a renewed sense of self-worth resulting from your accomplishments.

How to Prepare for College and Ease the Transition
There can be a bit of a culture shock associated with going to college in your later years. As you look around at the young, fresh faces among you in the classroom, you might second-guess your decision to go back to school.

To make the transition easier, consult with a college planning specialist  from the get-go. He or she can direct you toward people, groups and classes where you are likely to meet other people who are also earning degrees later in life. Note that night classes tend to attract older students since many of them are working and going to school.

You also can consider online college degree programs. You won’t get the social interaction of a live classroom, but you will get the benefit of earning a degree without any societal pressures. Just make sure the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education–approved accrediting agency.

Make Your Move
Going back to school might not be easy, but it can be one of the smartest career moves you ever make. With an undergraduate degree on your resume, you can up your income, increase your skill sets and broaden your knowledge in a field of study. Best of all, you can attend college as a more mature adult, prepared to handle the rigors of a college education.

About the Author
As a former managing editor of Entrepreneur magazine, Karen E. Spaeder writes frequently on a variety of topics, including college education, financial planning and small business. Her work appears at College Funding Resource, FeliciaGopaul.com, and numerous other blogs and websites. Having majored in English for her undergrad and grad degrees, Karen loves all things language-related, especially the Words With Friends app on her smartphone.


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  1. Michael,
    I recently went back to school for my college counseling certificate. It was challenging at times juggling course work, job and family. However, like you, I’m glad I did. Over the years, I learned to be more disciplined than I was when I was pursuing my BS degree. So in a sense, it was easier because I got done what had to be done knowing that there was no time to procrastinate.

  2. Hello there its been awhile since my last visit to your site, I think that people needs to go in college, because they should think about their future four years in college after that the remaining days, months and years is to spend time to work for our family.
    Kate Brown Wilson recently posted..שולחנות עגוליםMy Profile

  3. Hi Kate,
    Thanks for visiting again. I agree it’s important that people go to college. There are few things in life that provide the ROI that a quality education provides even if you’ve been working for a while. I recently returned to school and got my College Counseling certificate from UCLA Extension. I learned that it’s never too late to pursue a degree from my mom who finished her BS degree in her forties and then went on to get a Master’s. It’s an example that I felt proud to duplicate and trust that I’ve instilled in my girls.

  4. Thank you for this article. It gave me hope.
    I am a Mother of 6 young children and I am 40 years old. My youngest 2 are 1 year old Twin Girls. My husband and I are a tight team and do our best but we have no extra help.
    I have an Associate Degree in Chemistry which I acquired in my Twenties. Never had an opportunity to pursue Bachelors. But I have been saving for money for it for years.. Recently, I was accepted into a good Nursing Program for a BSN but decided to defer until youngest Babies enter Preschool or Kindergarten. By then I would be in my mid four ties. Sometimes I have doubts but I really would like to do it. It is nice to hear that one day I may for real.

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