Going back to college at 50 can be both exciting and terrifying. Every year, many people ages 50 and over go back to school to acquire the necessary skills for a career change, to qualify for a promotion, or to explore their passions. If you’re considering going back to college at 50 there are some things you should know to make the transition easier.
Before finalizing your decision, you need to know why its worth going back to school at 50, what alternatives to college you might want to consider, and how to pursue a college education in this unique stage of life. Continue reading this comprehensive guide on going back to college at 50 to achieve your goal of getting a college degree.
Is 50 Too Old to Go Back to School?
No, 50 isn’t too old to go back to school. At 50 years old, you still have plenty of time to pursue a degree at a university and work for at least ten years after graduation. While it is true that going back to school at an older age may come with its own challenges, there are many resources for adult learners to ease them back into the educational system.
However, you will still need to consider other factors such as costs, student loans, time, degree outcome, and career prospects. Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide whether going back to college is the right choice for you.
Why You Should Go Back to School at 50
- Looking for a career change. It is a great idea to go back to school to learn new skills if you want to spend the last of your working years in a new career chapter. Going back to school at 50 can equip you with the knowledge to delve into a new field and provide access to career services like job fairs, internship opportunities, and networking events.
- Staying competitive in the workforce. Going back to school can equip you with the skill set to remain competitive in your industry. Whether you’re a first-time college graduate or you’re returning to earn your master’s degree, it is a great way to build on your existing knowledge and develop expertise to remain a valuable member of your company.
- Creating new challenges and learning new things. It is never too late to learn. Even adults who have an established career may still desire to go back to school at 50 and learn new things. It offers an avenue to create new challenges that can push you towards personal development.
- Achieving a life-long goal. For adults who didn’t complete their college education, obtaining a degree may be a life-long goal. You can go to school at 50, as a way of achieving what you started in your earlier years.
- Seeking a salary increase. Working professionals might pursue college at 50 for a promotion or raise, as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that workers with higher education earn more.
How to Go Back to College at 50
Choosing to go back to college at 50 can be one of the biggest decisions you make in your adult life. At the same time, it will be a stimulating and enlightening experience. The whole process works similar to starting college at 18. In either case, you should take it one step at a time. Below are a few steps you should take to go back to college at 50.
1. Select an Area of Interest
The first step is to figure out why you want to go to college. Based on your reason, you can select an area of interest that will allow you to achieve that goal. If your goal is to get back into the workforce, look for careers with a good job outlook. College after age 50 should drive you towards your ultimate goal, whether it be a degree in nursing, accounting, or engineering.
2. Find an Accredited University
The next step is to find an accredited university that offers the degree program that you want to pursue. You should ensure that the school possesses appropriate accreditation from regional or national accrediting institutions. Accreditation provides proof and assurance that the school satisfies the minimum academic requirements to offer academic programs. Degrees from accredited schools are widely accepted and respected by potential employers.
3. Choose Online or In-Person Classes
You need to decide whether to take classes online or in person. While some students may enjoy the allure of the physical college experience, online classes are a flexible educational alternative for students with busy schedules. Adult students can benefit from the flexibility of virtual college campuses and online programs, allowing them to balance work, family, and school.
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On-campus learning is ideal for college students who prefer a traditional college setting. Whereas, online learning allows you to learn from the comfort of your home. Some colleges and universities allow you to take asynchronous courses, which is especially ideal if you want to complete your work on your own schedule.
4. Ask About Resources for Older Students
Many accredited schools offer resources for mature students. Inquiring about resources for returning to school will make the transition much easier and less stressful, as adapting to the new educational system can be shocking. You should check to see if your college offers preparatory courses, guidance counselors, or financial aid programs for returning or older students.
5. Start Early
We recommend you start the admissions process as early as you can. You will need to orient yourself for the admission process and there may be extra steps for older learners. For example, you may need to validate your old test scores to redeem college credits or you might need to create a portfolio if you want credit for life experience. Transcripts from previous undergraduate programs will help you in the pursuit of an advanced degree, as well.
Alternatives to College for 50-Year-Olds
The decision to return to college at 50 isn’t an easy one to make. It requires huge financial sacrifices and can be difficult to navigate with work and family. However, there are other platforms to increase your skills and knowledge without going back to college. Below are some alternatives to college.
A coding bootcamp is a short-term training program that prepares students for careers in tech such as web development, cyber security, digital marketing, graphic design, UI/UX design, and data science. It equips students with job-ready skills to delve into the industry after graduation. They are a cheaper and faster alternative to a traditional college education.
Pros of Coding Bootcamps
- Career services. Unlike a traditional college education, coding bootcamps offer career services such as resume review, interview prep, and networking events. This helps the student land jobs after graduation.
- Obtain job-ready skills. Coding bootcamp graduates are well-equipped to meet the demands of the industry. This is because coding bootcamps teach the most up-to-date knowledge and skills to meet employers’ needs.
- High job placement rate. Coding bootcamps have a high job placement rate. Research has shown that 74 to 90 percent of bootcamp graduates land a programming job within six months of graduation.
Cons of Coding bootcamps
- Narrow focus. Coding bootcamps have a narrow focus. While they will teach you everything you need to excel in a tech career, you’re not likely to learn much outside of your chosen subject.
- Fast-paced. Coding bootcamps are faster than colleges. This can be good for getting you job-ready as soon as possible, but it also means you have to work extra hard to keep up with the learning pace.
- Less financial aid. Coding bootcamp students may not be eligible to receive federal financial aid. As a result, some students might find it difficult to afford a coding bootcamp. However, there are unique payment options like deferred tuition.
Certificate programs help adult students upskill and improve their employability. They are shorter than obtaining a degree, lasting about nine months for part-time students.
Pros of Certificate Programs
- Less expensive. Certificate programs are considerably cheaper than college degrees. They are a great way to upskill without taking out a loan and acquiring student debt.
- Flexible schedule. Certificate programs are asynchronous. You can sign up for a certificate program and study at your own pace.
- Less time to complete. Certificate programs take less time to complete than college degree programs. The courses are shorter, making it an ideal choice for people who want to work full-time while studying.
Cons of Certificate Program
- No job guarantee. Completing a certificate program does not guarantee an easy job search. Some employers still prefer a college degree and do not see certificates as valuable credentials.
- Less prestigious than a college degree. A certificate program is less prestigious than a college degree. Employers who want to fill low-level positions prefer to hire candidates with certificates because the salary costs are lower.
- Limited options. Certificate programs focus on a particular skill. As a result, students have limited options in the workforce after graduation. Employers looking for employees with a diverse skillset may not favor certificate program candidates.
People who do not like the idea of returning to college can take online courses to learn new skills. There are numerous online learning platforms where you can sign up for an online course. Popular examples are Udemy, edX, Coursera, and Udacity.
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Pros of Online Courses
- Flexibility. Online courses offer the utmost flexibility. You can learn anywhere and take online courses anytime you want.
- Choose your preferred learning style. Online courses accommodate different learning styles. Visual learners, audio learners, and tactile learners can easily choose the learning style that suits them.
- Courses at every level. There are thousands of courses at different levels of expertise. Whether you are new to a topic or you have years of professional experience, there are online courses available for everyone.
Cons of Online Courses
- Limited social interaction. Compared to in-person classes, online courses do not provide opportunities to interact with fellow students. Some may find this isolating which makes it a con.
- It requires self-discipline. When you take online courses, you have to constantly motivate yourself to attend classes and complete assignments. There is no one to keep track of your progress so you need to be disciplined.
- Varied course quality. It may be difficult to find a high-quality course. Not all online courses have the required quality to teach students effectively. This can lead you to be ill-prepared.
Should You Go Back to School at 50?
Yes, you should go back to school at 50 if you want to acquire advanced education to progress in your career, switch careers, or fulfill personal goals. Going back to school at 50 can be thought of as an investment. Returning to college is an immensely rewarding experience, regardless of age.
Going Back to College at 50 FAQ
Yes, a 50-year-old person can go back to college. There is no age limit for learning and anyone with the desire to learn can seek college admission.
There is no age that is too old to go back to school. There are educational resources to help older students excel in degree programs.
Yes, a college dropout can go back to school to continue their degree program. This will help open career pathways to new job opportunities and higher earnings.
Some good careers to start at 50 include health diagnosing and treating practitioners, sales representatives, information technology specialists, health technologists, and technicians. The best career for you depends on what you enjoy doing.
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