Going Back to College at 25 [2021 Guide]

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Whether you’re looking for career advancement or personal fulfillment, going back to college at 25 may be the key to achieving your goals.

Going Back to College at 25

Returning to the classroom may seem overwhelming at first, but you can craft a back-to-college plan that will set you on the path to success.

Going Back to College at 25

college students studying together in library

Going back to college at 25 is a great investment in your future, but getting started can feel scary at first. Your mind may be racing with questions:

  • Can I balance school and work?
  • Will I be the oldest student in every class?
  • Do I remember how to study?
  • Can I afford school?
  • Will a college degree be worth it?

These worries are normal, but take heart. It’s never too late to earn a degree. Many adult students have successfully navigated the return to school, and you can do it too.

Why Should I Consider Going Back to College?

college students working on their presentation together

If you’re debating whether to take the plunge into college life, start by identifying the positives. Understanding the benefits of a degree can provide the motivation that you need.

Going back to college may:

  • Get you started in a new field
  • Help you land a better job
  • Lead to a pay increase
  • Prepare you to take leadership roles at work
  • Put your former college credits to good use
  • Raise your self-confidence

Your current line of work isn’t a life sentence. No matter what age you are, you can choose to start something new. First, though, you have to gain the necessary training. Holding a degree in your new field is the best way to demonstrate that you have what it takes. It can make you a more competitive candidate during job searches.

That may hold true even if you’re not switching fields. Pairing a college degree with your professional experience may help you get hired by one of the top employers in your line of work.

Your current employer may be willing to increase your pay as well. According to 2017 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with only a high school degree earn an average weekly salary of $712. Having an associate’s degree bumps that average up to $836, and a bachelor’s degree can increase it to $1,173.

college student walking in university grounds

Salary increases are often the result of promotions. Going to college may mean the difference between stagnating in your current position and receiving increasing leadership opportunities.

Even if you don’t have your sights set on any major career goals right now, going back to school can still be a smart move.

Perhaps you took a few college classes years ago, but you never graduated. Many colleges will let you transfer the credits into their programs. The time, money and effort that you invested in those classes will finally pay off.

Even better, you’ll have the sweet satisfaction of knowing that you’ve accomplished something huge. You’ll be able to say with pride, “Yes, I’ve been to college!” That confidence may spill over into job interviews, workplace interactions and even your personal life.

Going Back to College as an Adult – What Are My Next Steps?

college student returning a book to the librarian

Once you’ve determined that going back to school is right for you, it’s time to make a plan. Mapping out the next steps can help you build confidence as you prepare for this new undertaking.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Brainstorm what degree program best fits your interests and career goals.
  2. Look into schools that focus on adult learners.
  3. Apply for financial aid.
  4. Submit applications to schools.
  5. Talk to a school advisor about succeeding as an adult learner.

Some students know exactly what type of degree they want to earn. Others believe that having a degree would be beneficial, but they’re not too sure what to study.

Doing research can help. The Center on Education and the Workforce has an interactive tool for exploring potential earnings. You can also consult the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for current job growth rates in various fields.

Balancing life, work and home responsibilities is a top concern for many adult learners. If you’re in that boat too, look for programs that are targeted at working professionals.

Many such programs are offered online. Distance studies often include the flexibility to log in at any time of the day or night, and the faculty members tailor their teaching approaches to complement non-traditional school schedules.

college students sharing their ideas for their group presentation

You can count on getting a good education from an online program as long as you choose one with regional accreditation. Those programs are held to the same standards as on-campus ones. You can find a list of regional accreditors from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Plus, at an online school that focuses on adult students, your fellow classmates may be in similar life situations. That can build support and camaraderie.

Once you’ve picked a degree and potential majors, it’s time to put your plans into action. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to learn about government tuition help, and send in college applications.

After you’re accepted, reach out to a representative from the school for further assistance. The admissions department or an academic advisor can help you get acclimated to college life.

Advantages to Going Back to College

college student studying at a cafe

You’re in a different place in your life than you were at 18. Although attending school as an adult presents new challenges, such as balancing school and a full-time job, it also offers several advantages that you didn’t have right out of high school.

  • Desire to set a good example — If you have kids, you may be driven to finish school in order to show your kids that it can be done.
  • Focus — Young students often spend much of their college experience on social activities. As an adult with many responsibilities, you may have left your partying days behind long ago.
  • Motivation — Your first-hand experience of life without a college degree may give you the drive to succeed.
  • Personal stake — Right out of high school, someone else may have been funding your tuition. If you’re the one paying the bills now, you’ll want to make the most of every dollar that you’re spending.
  • Professional experience — By now, you know what it’s like to hold a full-time job. You understand what employers are looking for and what skills will help you succeed. That knowledge can help guide your time in the classroom.
  • Self-awareness — 10 or 20 years ago, you may not have been sure what you wanted out of life. Now that you’re older, you may know exactly what your goals are and how a college degree will help you achieve them.

If it makes you feel better, you can remind yourself that you won’t be alone. According to a U.S. News and World Report study that came out in 2017, the average online college student is 32 years old.

Plus, you may have chosen the best time to go back to school as an adult. While adults used to have to quit their jobs in order to focus full-time on studies, online schools have changed all of that. According to the U.S. News survey, 84% of online students also hold down jobs.

Instead of thinking of your age as a hindrance to college success, start thinking of it as an advantage. You’ll bring to the classroom the focus, drive and determination that come only from maturity and life experience.

5 Tips for Going Back to College After Dropping Out

college students studying together in university campus

Your college experience can be different this time around. Follow these five tips for a successful return to school.

1. Managing Your Time

You’ve got a lot on your plate, so you’re going to have to make the most of every minute while in school. Pencil study sessions onto your calendar. Begin each session by setting specific goals for your study time.

Don’t forget to give yourself a break now and then too. Regular downtime with friends or family will help carry you through this busy season.

2. Finding the Right Program

college students working together in university canteen

You may be most comfortable at a school that’s designed around the needs of working professionals. U.S. News maintains a list of schools where a high percentage of students are over 25.

Always choose a regionally accredited college. Regionally accredited degrees carry more weight with employers, and it’s easier to transfer the credits elsewhere.

3. Creating a Degree Plan

Now that you’re a little older, you may have a better idea of what you want to do with your life. You can choose a degree program that matches up with your career plans and your interests. There may even be opportunities to select a concentration or elective courses.

Understanding from day one how this degree will fuel your dreams may motivate you to stay the course.

4. Choose Your Schedule

college students looking at their schedule

Balancing work and school is easier if you can take classes at times that suit your schedule. Some on-campus programs offer night or weekend classes for those who are tied up in the office during the day.

Online courses may be even more accomodating. These often allow you to watch lectures or complete assignments any time of the day or night.

5. Paying for Your College Education

Financial aid isn’t only for fresh-out-of-school teenagers. You can fill out the FAFSA to apply for grants or loans from the federal government.

It’s smart to apply for scholarships too. Some are specifically for adult learners.

Is It Too Late to Go Back to School at the Age of 25?

college student looking for a book in the library

Anytime can be the right time to head back to college. There’s no such thing as too old for knowledge and learning.

In fact, you may find that college is a much better fit for you now than it was when you were 19. As an adult learner, you have the professional experience and personal maturity to take your studies seriously and understand how they’re relevant to your life. You may also be more motivated to succeed.

Earning a college degree can be one of the proudest moments of your life at any age. So if you have yet to complete your degree, whether it was from being academically dismissed, or if you think 30 is too late to go back to school, it may be one of the best decisions you make for your future.

Is 25 Too Old to Start College For the First Time?

college students happily studying together

It’s never too late to start your first college class. These days, college classrooms, whether in-person or virtual, are populated by students of all ages.

Sometimes, just getting started can be the biggest obstacle. If you’re feeling hesitant, give college a try by signing up for one course. Having that first class under your belt may give you the confidence to keep going until you have a diploma in hand.

Attending school with other adult learners may be another confidence booster. If that appeals to you, consider online courses. Thanks to their flexible formats, online colleges often attract a good number of older students.

Is Returning to College at 25 a Good Idea?

college student looking at her tablet in the library

Yes, going back to college as an adult can be a fantastic choice!

If you started an undergraduate degree years ago but never finished it, you may have class credits that are just waiting to be put to good use. Many schools will let you transfer in a significant number of credits, or they’ll give you credit for professional experience. As an adult learner, you may be able to finish a degree program in short order.

Even if you already have a degree, don’t rule out the idea of returning to the classroom. You could get a second undergraduate degree or go for a master’s this time around.

Can I Still Go to College at 25?

college students listening to their professor in class

Yes, many colleges welcome adult students with open arms. In fact, plenty of programs are built around the needs of older learners.

As a working adult, you’ll probably benefit from a college calendar with a good deal of flexibility. Online classes are often quite accomodating of students who need to participate in class discussions at 11 p.m. or do all of their homework on the weekends. You may able to access round-the-clock tutoring as well.

Even some on-campus programs may offer classes that don’t conflict with standard office hours. For example, you may need to report to campus only one or two evenings a week.

Should You Go Back to School as an Adult?

college students browsing the internet in university library

No matter your age, getting a college degree can be a great way to increase your employability and your earning potential.

According to 2017 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for adults with only a high school diploma is around 5.2%. With a bachelor’s degree, the rate drops to 2.7%.

It’s likely that your salary will increase with more education as well. The BLS statistics show that, on average, people with a bachelor’s degree earn about $460 more per week than those who have graduated high school but have taken no college classes.

Getting Your College Degree Online

college student studying online

Whether you’ve been out of school for five years or 15, it’s never too late to get a degree. Going back to college as an adult can seem daunting, but you have the experience and the drive to make higher education work for you.

With a degree, you’ll be well-suited for raises, promotions or new jobs. Plus, you’ll have the confidence that comes from achieving a major accomplishment.

Flexibility and convenience make digital programs especially appealing to adult students, so apply to online colleges. A virtual return to the classroom may be just right for your current phase of life.

Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.