What Age Do You Go to College? [2022 Guide]

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What age do you go to college? Anytime! There is no age limit when it comes to applying to college. While many people choose to attend university directly after high school, you can actually be any age for college.

What Age Do You Go to College

If you are a motivated individual and have a strong desire to broaden your horizons and engage in academic growth, there is no reason your age should stop you from attending college.

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College can be an advantageous way to sharpen existing skills, gain new abilities, and build lasting connections at any age.

At What Age Do You Go to College?

age requirement to attend college

Although there is sometimes a minimum age requirement to attend college, there is not a maximum one. This means that you can go to college at nearly any point in your life. In fact, these days there are many opportunities for going back to school as an adult.

While many people choose to earn their undergraduate degree right after high school, your college journey might look different.

People go to college for a number of reasons, including to:

  • Earn a degree
  • Receive specialized training or licensure for a job
  • Explore or discover their passions
  • Enter a community of like-minded individuals
  • Begin on the path toward an advanced degree

Going to college immediately after high school can help prepare you to enter the workforce in a specific field or industry, but there can also be benefits in waiting to apply.

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For instance, if you are unsure what you would like to study or are interested in traveling before you earn your degree, you might consider waiting. Time can sometimes help you uncover your passion and shape your career path. If you are interested in attending college as a minor, there are many programs that offer this option.

You might attend college as a minor to:

  • Finish high school early
  • Challenge yourself with an extra course
  • Earn transfer credits
  • Get a jump on your career training
  • See if college is right for you
  • Learn a new skill

While many young people attend undergrad colleges for these reasons, some professionals do recommend waiting to enroll full-time. Because high school is a time to develop social and emotional skills, graduating early can make it difficult to adjust in a college setting where everyone is older.

If you are ready for the demands and excitements of college, your age should not be a limiting factor. While you may experience unique challenges as a younger person, there will still be many positive results for someone who is ready.

Is College Right for Me?

attending college

Determining whether attending college is the right choice for you is a personal decision. There are various factors you can take into consideration as you think through your choice.

Pros:

  • Attending college can help you build your career.
  • College is an opportunity to network with others.
  • Many schools provide employment and internship opportunities.
  • You may have greater earning potential if you go to college.
  • College can be a chance to explore your interests.

Cons:

  • College requires a large time commitment.
  • Your prospective career may not require a college degree.
  • Attending college does not guarantee you a specific job or salary range.
  • College can be expensive.
  • College can be an overwhelming experience for some.

While your own pros and cons list may have additional items, this can be a good place to start. Consider highlighting the factors that are most important to you in order to help you make your decision.

Typical College Admissions Requirements

College Admissions Requirements

Applications will vary between colleges. Most require you to submit a small fee along with some, or all, of the following materials:

  • SAT or ACT scores (only required by some schools)
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts

It can be beneficial to carefully and thoroughly work through your applications. Ensuring that your personality, goals, and individuality are clearly visible can help raise your chances of acceptance. Colleges are often interested in unique and driven applicants who have the potential to achieve success in a program.

Accreditation

college accreditation

The goal of accreditation is to determine whether a school meets a set of criteria for excellence. In other words, an accrediting agency conducts a check for quality, including a review of all educational materials, services, and staff.

Attending a regionally accredited institution is an eligibility requirement for some forms of financial aid. The accreditation status of your college can also help future employers evaluate the credibility of your educational training and assign value to your degree.

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You can check if your prospective schools are regionally accredited by visiting the US Department of Education’s website.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

college financial aid

If college is too expensive for your current budget, you can always explore your financial aid options. There are several different types of financial aid, each with a unique application process and set of eligibility requirements.

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will determine how much need-based support you are qualified to receive. In addition to federal financial aid, you can apply for aid opportunities through your school, such as scholarship and work-study programs.

If you are currently employed, you can check with your work’s benefits team to see if you are eligible for tuition reimbursement.

Do You Have to Go to College?

why go to college

While the decision to attend college rests on several personal factors, there are many benefits to attending. Many people find that college can provide unique and stimulating opportunities for academic and personal growth, such as:

  • Meeting new friends and forming connections
  • Experiencing life away from their hometown
  • Studying a topic that prepares them for their professional career
  • Earning a degree to help them stand out in job searches
  • Discovering and exploring their interests

While there are endless numbers of positives associated with going to university, there may also be some challenges, including cost and time commitment. First and foremost, you may want to determine whether your individual career goals require obtaining a college degree.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Go to College?

college minimum age

There are no age restrictions when it comes to attending college. While 17 is often thought to be the minimum age required to apply, some schools actually allow you to apply when you are younger.

Even when there is no minimum age requirement, applicants who are younger than 17 may need to complete additional steps to be considered. Parents or guardians will typically be asked to sign consent forms and fill out financial paperwork.

Additionally, it is helpful to consider the time commitment and social expectations of a college student. Young applicants may find that they are not yet socially equipped to handle a college environment.

Can You Start College at 21?

Start College at 21

Yes, you can start college at 21. There is no age limit when it comes to college students. You can be a freshman at age 21, 90, and everything in between.

Being a 21-year-old freshman is more common than you might think. Many college students take a small academic break after high school and choose to apply to college later on. Because learning is a lifelong process, people often find themselves interested in starting college at a wide range of ages. If you are hoping to begin your college journey as a 21-year-old, don’t let your age stop you.

Can You Go to College at 17?

Yes, you can certainly go to college at 17. Many high school graduates are 17 when they earn their high school diploma and leave for college.

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If you are attending college as a 17-year-old freshman, you will likely have the opportunity to meet many other students who are around the same age. This could be a beneficial way to build friendships and connections away from home and meet people who may share your interests and career aspirations.

Can You Go to College at 16?

attending College at 16

Although students who apply to college are typically at least 17 years old, you could still be accepted into college at age 16.

Because you are younger, you will probably have to fill out additional paperwork and get written consent from your parents or guardians. In addition, you may benefit from meeting with a guidance counselor to ensure that you can finish all the coursework requirements needed for your high school diploma.

Is There an Age Limit for College?

No, there is not an age limit for college. You can apply to college at any age, which is something that people do all the time.

People choose to begin or return to college at different ages for many reasons. They might have started a degree and never had the opportunity to finish. Maybe they have discovered their passion in their middle age and are preparing for a career change. Whatever your personal reason for starting college, your age will not limit your ability to do so.

Can You Go to College Without Graduating High School?

College Without Graduating High School

Contrary to popular belief, you can go to college without graduating high school. You can choose to earn your GED by taking a test that covers core academic subjects. Many colleges offer extensive educational opportunities to students who hold a GED.

There is also the chance that you may be eligible to reenroll in high school to earn your diploma. You can check with your district for specific details on reenrollment. All colleges have different requirements when it comes to applicants without a high school diploma. It is strategic to check the specific admissions details for your prospective schools before you apply.

How Long Is College?

If you follow a traditional, 16 week semester and attend college full-time, you can generally earn a bachelors degree in 4 years.

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If you choose to stay enrolled year-round and follow an 8 week semester, you might be able to graduate in less time. While most programs follow this timeline, there are exceptions. You may want to research your schools of interest to see if they offer programs that align with your personal timeline.

What’s the Difference Between College vs. University?

Although the terms “college” and “university” might be used interchangeably, there are some differences between these types of institutions.

College University
  • Typically has smaller number of students
  • May have more limited program and course offerings
  • More focused on undergraduate degrees
  • Typically has larger number of students
  • May offer more program and course offerings
  • Offers undergraduate and graduate degrees

You can earn a credible degree and study a wide range of topics at either a college or a university. The institution that’s best for you will depend on a number of personal factors, such as your preference in environment, major, and class size.

What’s the Difference Between Community College vs. University?

A community college is often a stepping stone in the journey toward earning a bachelors degree.

Community College University
  • Enables you to earn transfer credits, earn an associates, or explore new subjects
  • Smaller student population
  • Can prepare you to transfer to a university or for entry-level roles in the workforce
  • Enables you to earn a bachelors or graduate degree
  • Larger student population
  • May lead to more career prospects with higher earning potential

If you do not have the ability to go to a university straight out of college, you might consider attending community college and then transferring in a few years.

Getting Your College Degree Online

College Degree Online

If you are considering earning your college degree, your age does not have to be a determining factor. Learners of all ages can experience success in college, whether they’re exploring a newfound passion, gaining experience for their professional career, or just picking up a new skill for fun.

Attending college can be a strategic way to network, build community, and grow both academically and personally. In addition to traditional campus programs, a growing number of schools now offer online programming as well.

The sooner you start researching accredited college degree programs, the sooner you can start applying to your top picks. Remember, it is never too late to go to college!

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Molly Doyle
WRITTEN BY
Molly Doyle
Molly holds a B.A in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz and a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of San Francisco. A Seattle-based educator, Molly focuses on student-centered instruction and creating culturally responsive curriculum.