Going Back to School at 50 [2021 Guide]

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Going back to school at 50 may be one of the best decisions that you ever make. It’s never too late for self-improvement, especially when it comes with the potential of higher pay and better career prospects.

Going Back to School at 50

There are also many advantages to studying as a “non-traditional” student with wisdom and life experience under your belt.

With the right approach, earning your degree at 50 can be quite rewarding.

How to Go Back to School at 50

If you’re considering going back to school at 50, your first concern is probably time. You might be juggling a lot of responsibilities already, including work, family, charity, or community.

How can you fit earning a degree into a busy lifestyle?

You can benefit from flexible, online classes.

Mature college student studying online

Some students are able to fit school into their busy schedule with online classes. By doing everything online, you won’t have to physically commute to a college campus every day, and you can fit in your lessons between kids, errands, and work shifts.

Another option is something called asynchronous classes. Unlike classes that meet at specific days and times, these are flexible, self-paced classes where the professors give you the coursework and allow you to complete everything on your own schedule.

There are deadlines for assignments and exams, but aside from that, you’re in control of your learning. This flexibility can help with other challenges of the adult student as well.

Take advantage of resources for adult learners.

Adult college students studying together in library

Let’s say that you’re worried about your readiness for college-level academics. You haven’t written an essay since you were a teenager. Going back to school at 50 years old might seem like a tall order.

The good news is that colleges today have many resources for adult learners. There are tutoring centers and homework help lines. There are remedial courses that can act as refreshers before you enroll in real, credit-bearing classes.

You may also ask your college about skipping or testing out of certain credit requirements. For example, if you’ve already earned a title like Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Professional Secretary (CPS), you might satisfy some of their industry-related educational requirements.

You may also consider putting together a portfolio that details your working background, including any time spent in the military or in corporate training programs. Some schools are willing to offer college credit for life experience.

Get started with these next steps.

adult college students studying together

Are you intrigued by the possibilities of higher education? Are you wondering about the next steps for enrollment? Here are just a few tips for you if you’re considering how to go back to college at 50.

  1. Pick an area of interest. What do you want to study? Is it offered as a major, minor, certificate, or degree specialization? How many credits does it require? How long will it take to earn a degree in it?
  2. Decide whether to take classes online or in-person. Online schools tend to have more flexibility for working adults, but some degree programs might be better experienced on campus. Some online programs have in-person requirements that you’d need to fulfill.
  3. Find an accredited university. Degrees that are widely accepted and respected come from schools that are accredited. You can check out the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to learn more.
  4. Ask about resources for older students. Do they offer credits for life experience? Can you take advantage of any career services or childcare services? Can you take remedial or preparatory courses if you’ve been out of school for a long time?
  5. Start early. As an adult learner, you might need to jump through a few extra hoops at admissions time. For example, you might need to validate old test scores or take a new placement test, or you might need to put together a portfolio if you want credit for life experience. You want to give yourself plenty of time to make the necessary arrangements.

Starting college at 50 isn’t unlike starting college at 18. While some of the smaller details of the admissions process might be different, the overall experience of taking classes, earning credits, and working towards a degree will be the same.

You might even make friends with other non-traditional students in your degree program. Statistics show that more and more adults are returning to school in their older years. So don’t let your age hold you back from returning to school after 40.

Why Should I Consider Going Back to School at 50?

adult college students in university classroom

A college degree can open doors for graduates of any age. That said, there are unique benefits for those who are going back to college at 45 years old or after 50, and there are unique reasons to consider seeking a degree even if you’ll be an unconventional student.

  1. You want to make more money. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, your earning potential rises with every degree that you obtain. For example, while high school graduates make an average of $38,792 per year, bachelor’s degree holders make an average of $64,896 per year.
  2. You want to leverage your life experience into resume material. Many colleges will give you credit for work, life, or military experience. You might also be able to earn credits through professional titles or industry designations.
  3. You want to be more competitive on the job market. A newly minted degree may be a hot commodity on the job market, especially in fast-moving fields where employers are looking for people who are familiar with the latest tools and technologies.
  4. You want to change careers. It’s never too late to seek greener pastures. A college degree can prepare you for the specifics of your new field while also giving you access to things like internships, job fairs, and networking events.
  5. You want to pursue a specific hobby or interest. You don’t need to have career ambitions to go back to school. You may do it simply for the joy of learning new things, being social, engaging your mind, and working on self-improvement.

These are just a few of the reasons you may want to pursue higher education and advance your knowledge and skills.

Is Financial Aid Available?

Financial Aid for college students

Students of all ages can utilize financial aid. The most well-known source of assistance is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which offers grants, loans, and work-study opportunities for students who qualify.

FAFSA is based on income, and there are no age restrictions. Other options for financial aid may include scholarships, private loans, and tuition reimbursement programs from employers.

Is 50 Too Old to Go Back to School?

adult college students in university classroom

You’re never too old to get an education. While it’s true that going to college after 50 may have its challenges, there are many resources out there for adult learners.

Your hard work may eventually pay off through better employment prospects and increased earning potential. Additionally, once you have your degree, you’ll have it for life.

Should I Go Back to College at 50?

adult college student studying online

Ultimately, you’re the only one who can decide if going back to school is the right path for you. Here are a few factors  you may want to consider when making your decision.

The first factor is money. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a bachelor’s degree make an average salary of $64,896 per year. As a point of comparison, people with a high school diploma and no college degree earn an average of $38,792 per year.

Career prospects is another factor to consider. A college degree may teach you the necessary skills that you need for a promotion, job change, or industry switch. You may even decide to start your own business. A degree may also boost your resume and give you a competitive edge in the eyes of employers.

Is It Worth Going to College at 50?

business professionals in a meeting

Yes, going back to school at 50 is worth it for many adult students. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who earn a bachelor’s degree make an average salary of $64,896 per year, which is a significant jump from the average salary of $38,792 earned by high school graduates with no degree.

You may also reap the benefits of improved prospects on the job market. Your degree will be current, and you may have developed the skills necessary to tackle a new job or even switch careers entirely.

Depending on your school, you might also have the chance to utilize student resources while you’re enrolled. You may want to keep an eye out for opportunities like internships, fellowships, job fairs, career boards, and networking events.

adult college students listening to a lecture

Going to college can also be great for personal development. The experience may teach you new things, build your confidence, broaden your horizons, and engage you with your industry and community.

Think of a college degree as an investment. You probably wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to invest in an amazing stock or an incredible resource just because of your age. This time, though, the resource that you’re investing in is yourself.

Going back to school at 50 can be an immensely rewarding experience, so don’t let your fear hold you back. You may start making inquiries into accredited colleges as your first step towards a brighter future.

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.