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What’s It Like Going Back to College at 30?

Updated: February 13, 2024 | Published: November 30, 2018

Updated: February 13, 2024

Published: November 30, 2018


Going back to college at 30 might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be

Thinking about starting college at 30 years old, or perhaps even older? While going back to college in your 30’s may seem daunting, and while there are certainly some challenges along the way, it may actually be easier than you think.

The advantages of having a degree can be enormous. You could finally be experienced and qualified for your dream job, or gain more expertise in your current field (and thus a higher salary).

According to research, individuals with a bachelor’s degree end up getting paid an average of 65% more over their careers in comparison to those without a degree. And those that acquire their master’s and doctorates can enjoy an average of 200-300% higher pay — not too shabby!

In addition to making more money, obtaining a degree opens up doors that simply stay shut if you never go to college. Only about 36% of job openings will even consider hiring a candidate without a degree. This means going back to college could be a seriously beneficial decision for your career prospects.

If it may have been several years since you last studied or if you may already have a job and need the money to support your family, you may feel a little overwhelmed to step out of your comfort zone and take the decision to return to school later in life. But it doesn’t have to be!

These tips may just help you realize that going back to college might be a great decision that could change your life for the better.

Source: Pexels

Give plenty of thought on exactly what you want to do

Choosing to return to school is a huge commitment, so make sure you do your research thoroughly and make a plan with clear goals on what you want to achieve.

Be fully committed to the why. That is, figure out exactly why you want to obtain higher education. Is it to get a better job so you can provide more for your family? Is it to finally pursue your passion in life and get that dream job?

A degree can help you change your career path entirely. It can also get you a promotion in the career you already have. Some companies even offer to pay for their employees to go back to school — definitely check with your boss to see if this is an option. Even if they don’t, ask if you can be the first.

Be sure to do some research and hard thinking about the goals that getting a degree will help you achieve. Being confident in knowing exactly why you are making the commitment to go back to school and having clear goals in mind will certainly help get you through the long nights of studying.

Being more mature gives you an advantage

A lot of the young students that go straight to college after high school have no idea what they want to do in life. They have little to no work experience and are often more concerned with partying than focusing on actual school work.

Those going to college later in life, however, already have a plethora of experience and skills they’ve picked up along the way.

As one student who went back to school in her 40’s puts it:

“You’ve been out in the big bad world. You’ve held jobs and paid bills. You know what opportunities are out there, and what success costs. You know more than any 18-year-old could about the advantages of an education, and you can put that knowledge to work for you. Your choices will be more informed, and your work more directed.”

Even more than that, you have the advantage of a fully-developed brain that naturally performs better than the youngsters. In fact, The Seattle Longitudinal Study of Adult Cognitive Development — which has tracked the cognitive abilities of thousands of adults — discovered that older adults performed better on 4 out of 6 tests than they did as young adults.

With all these advantages, college may end up being easier and more enjoyable than you remember.

Tons of people successfully go back to college later in life

It’s far more common for people to get further education later in life than many might expect.

For example, in private for-profit schools in the US, a whopping 69% of students are over 25, 30% of which are over 35.

Vickey Kalambakal recounts her first day going back to college as an older student:

“I was literally shaking as I entered my classroom. How could I hope to keep up? What was I thinking of, enrolling in school in my 40s?

When I finally did walk into my class, I found that half the students were my own age, or older. Every class since has left me that much closer to my goal, and that much happier over my decision. I cannot even imagine my life without the challenges and triumphs of college.

If you are straddling the fence, hop off. The opportunities to grow are incredible.”

For students getting their bachelor’s online — a great option we delve into further down in this article — the average age is actually 32 years old!

So take comfort in knowing you’re definitely not alone in deciding to further your education at 30.

Time management is essential

Source: Pexels

You probably have a full-time job and maybe even a family to juggle. Deciding to go back to school means you’ll have classes, homework, and exams that you’ll have to make time for out of your already busy life.

Learning excellent time management skills will be crucial to your success.

You’ll have to make a schedule (and stick to it!), prioritize tasks, stay away from distractions, and occasionally choose studying over going out with friends.

To make managing your time a little easier, there’s tons of tools out there that can help you out. For example, there’s an app called Focus Booster that helps you maintain focus and manage distractions.

Online degrees are a great option for older students

As we mentioned earlier, the average age for online bachelor’s students is 32 years old. And an overwhelming majority of those students are working a job while they study online.

That’s because choosing to get an online degree gives you way more flexibility than having to commute to a school in-person.

Source: US News

You also greatly widen your horizons on what schools you could apply to and attend. Instead of just opting for the closest school near by, you could enroll in a program better suited for your needs that may be on the other side of the world — all while never having to leave the comfort of your home!

Even better, online colleges and universities are often much more affordable than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

If the high cost of college is what’s holding you back from pursuing your degree, it’s well worth giving University of the People consideration. We are the world first tuition-free accredited online university. You read that right — we do not charge our students for tuition, or course materials,making degree programs more affordable and accessible. Everyone deserves the right to an education, and no one should be left behind due to financial constraints.

Don’t let your age hold you back

Making the leap to decide to go back to school can be scary, but it could completely change your life. You don’t want to end up looking back upon your life with regret because you never took the leap of faith to go back to school.

If you want to study something you’re passionate about, you could end up getting your dream job — all because you made the choice to invest in yourself and get further education.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

There’s no time like the present to go for it — no matter what age you are!