Going Back to School When You’re Over 40, 50, or 60

By admin / Posted on 02 July 2010

This guest blog post is contributed by Boomerater, a free online resource for Baby Boomers with information on everything from where to retire to investment planning. Seniors for Living’s properties are featured in Boomerater’s Senior Communities directory.

Are you considering going back to school?  It may have been years since you’ve studied anything in a formal classroom setting. Maybe you just want to keep your mind sharp. Perhaps you are considering ways to strengthen your resume to achieve greater financial security.  Or, are you being drawn to the vibrant college environment with its variety of viewpoints and social opportunities?

Whatever your reasons for considering continuing your education, it can be a difficult, even intimidating step to take, but one that may well be worth it. Fortunately the situation is far different from what you may imagine. It is becoming much more common for people who spend years in the workforce, or who take years off to raise children, to decide to go back to school.

What Type of School is Right for You?

To a great degree which school you attend will be based on your location and ties to the community, or on your interest in relocating. The easiest, and often cheapest, back-to-school option for “non-traditional” students, which includes the over 40 crowd, is often to enroll in a community college. Anyone who lives in the community can enroll to take courses at a price much lower than a more traditional university. This can be an excellent way to take a few classes close to home.  You’ll get a feel for the college environment while earning college credits.  Once you are comfortable with attending a community college, you may decide it is the right environment for you, or you may decide to continue your education at a larger university.  Now there is even the growing opportunity to get your degree or to take continuing education classes at home on line.

Campus Life for Older Students

It’s a good idea to look into the social environment of the schools you are considering.  Some schools focus on full-time students, and schedule courses almost exclusively during daytime hours when older people may be unable to attend classes. Other colleges and universities run special programs to ensure their schools are viable options for older students.  There are also schools and programs that focus their attention almost entirely on less traditional students. Numerous small career training schools across the country design their schedules around making classes available at hours when adult workers are most likely to attend.

Two helpful blogs to check out if you are thinking of returning to school after a long time off are:  The Non-Traditional Student Blog (non-traditional-students.blogspot.com) and the Older Non-Trad Student (oldernontradstudent.blogspot.com).

Going Back to School to Earn Credits… Without Paying Tuition

Many state universities, and some private universities, have policies of either waiving tuition for senior citizens or offering greatly reduced rates. If you live in Virginia, for example, depending on your income you may qualify to have the tuition waived.  Considering the amount of money that this can save you, it’s well worth your time to check with the admissions office of the schools in your area to find out whether you qualify for this type of program.

There are also other free training programs available, some of which are supported by local and government programs designed to help displaced workers find a new career. For example, the Bidwell Training Center in Pennsylvania offers training and career placement to people living in the area completely free of charge. Your local employment offices and libraries should be able to help you find out about free or discounted training and career placement opportunities in your community.

Taking Classes On-Line for Credit

The web offers a wealth of college and university on-line bachelors and graduate degree programs, as well as enrichment classes. This can be an especially important option for homebound seniors or those who live a distance from a college or university. In many cases scholarships, grants, discounts, college loans or other financial aid may still apply. Make sure, however, before enrolling in an online degree program that you determine that the college or university is accredited.

College No Cost / No Credit Options to “Keep your Brain at the Top of its Game!”

If your goal is to learn about a subject, without receiving college credit, you may be able to “audit” classes for free or at very reduced prices.  While auditing a class, the student has the option to take, or not take exams, write papers or complete other class work.  Depending on the state, the age threshold for free class auditing is typically 60, 62 or 65 years of age. Some schools also offer the choice of taking continuing education courses exclusively for “mature” adults (often 50 and older).  They usually run four to eight weeks and may or may not offer credits.  Both options offer the opportunity to get back into college life, build your knowledge and meet new friends with similar interests.

Fantastic Ways to Learn for Free…. Online Without Leaving Home

Some of America’s most prestigious universities invite you to sit in on lectures on-line, free of charge.  Open Yale Courses provides a wide variety of videos of actual course lectures, everything from psychology classes about dreams to lectures on astronomy, history and literature.  Check out the free on-line course list at oyc.yale.edu/courselist.com. Another amazing resource for free college classes is AcademicEarth.org.  On this site you can stream lectures from some of the country’s top universities including Princeton, MIT, Harvard, UCLA, Columbia, Michigan, Northeastern, NYU, Oxford, Stanford and Berkeley.   The eclectic course list truly offers something for everyone, and at the price (free) and the convenience (at home) this is one of the best learning opportunities you will find.

Whatever your motivation or situation, continuing to learn is vital to keeping your mind sharp, while maintaining your ability to contribute to society in a meaningful way.  The key is to mentally challenge yourself every day in every way possible.

Read the entire article Going Back To School When You’re Over 40, 50 or 60 at Boomerater to find out about:

  • The Enrollment Process
  • State and financial aid options, scholarships, fellowships and tax breaks for older students
  • More totally free on-line opportunities to learn about finance, marketing, foreign languages, music lessons, computer courses, web design, etc.

There are 12 Comments about this post

  1. Jane says,

    Great post! There are so many options out there and it’s important to make the best decision.


    on 04 July 2010 / 10:30 PM

  2. Kaye Swain says,

    Hmmm, I earned my AA in my 50s. Now I’m so busy blogging, I’m having too much fun to go back. But maybe…in my 70s, I’ll go for my BA. Very cool! :)

    Thanks for the great info and thanks for including this in the Boomers and Seniors: News You Can Use blog carnival at SandwichINK.


    on 20 July 2010 / 12:22 PM

  3. Teresa says,

    don’t know where to start…


    on 23 March 2012 / 11:28 AM

  4. Thanks! I’ve gone back to school on my 30′s at least three times. I have at least 70 credit hours just sitting at a community college and have not finished. I’m in a supportive living facility now but I’m all “fired” up again determined not to leave this earth “unfinished”. Thank-you again for an article with spark.


    on 10 May 2012 / 5:06 PM

  5. Glad you enjoyed the article and found it inspiring/motivating. Best to you in your plans!


    on 11 May 2012 / 9:48 AM

  6. send info all


    on 17 June 2012 / 4:05 PM

  7. Beatrice says,

    I’m interested in early childhood education and need a way to pay for training


    on 22 June 2012 / 11:55 AM

  8. Mike Johnson says,

    Great article. Alabama has free tuition for 60+’s. I need to go back to school but not certain what to study. I never want to quit work but where is the work for 60+s? Thanks


    on 11 October 2012 / 10:20 AM

  9. Christine says,

    I have attended classes in my years but never completed college but like Rosemarie B, I’m excited again about finishing. Thank you so much for this information and website. Thanks


    on 02 February 2013 / 2:23 PM

  10. Glad to hear it! Best to you as you pursue further education! You’re welcome.


    on 05 February 2013 / 3:12 PM

  11. [...] more common than 40-year-olds in college classrooms, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of older students from following their [...]


    on 23 September 2013 / 1:59 PM

  12. Hello, Im 46
    Looking to further my person! I am at a stage in life where i need to do something different.
    I want to school full time, is there a grant that will pay housing and everything?


    on 04 November 2013 / 6:09 PM


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