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.