Last night I was inducted into the education honor society. It was a beautiful ceremony, complete with inspirational speeches, prayers and candles. I felt very much part of the college community, despite my ripe old age. There, I said it. I’m not a young’n anymore. However, this does not stop me from pursuing my dreams.
When people ask me whether they should go back to college as an “older” adult, I ask them if they were planning to retire in 3 to 4 years (or however long it would take to graduate). When they say no, then I point out that they would be turning that age anyway – why not with a degree too? I am extremely blessed because this is my second degree. My second career. And why not? We are multifaceted people. Many people have to change careers as they get older, for one reason or another. In my case, I took an opportunity and ran with it.
As an older adult in college, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, we belong there just as much as everyone else, including high school graduates. I know that some may hesitate to speak up in class, for fear of coming across as the “older student who can’t stay quiet”. However, our perspective is unique and adds color to group discussions. Don’t hold back. Be yourself. We have years (maybe even decades) of experience that others can learn from. It’s okay to appear eager and attentive. We want to be there – why not show it?
Secondly, our challenges are different than younger students. We usually have jobs and families to juggle along with our studies. My advice is to find a certain time of day when no one interrupts you. My homework/study time is usually in the early morning. Yes, I get up too early and would rather be in bed. However, the early morning works for me because my mind is fresh and the house is quiet. I admit I also burn the midnight oil sometimes. I would be a liar if I said I had this completely figured out, but I do burn the candle at both ends for much of the semester. I’m still finding my balance here. One thing that helps is to plan ahead and use windows of opportunity. For example, when I knew I had a research paper to write and it would be due at the same time as essays from another class, I began to write the essays early so it would give me more time later. Of course, it helps that I love to write.
Thirdly, we can learn new things or refresh old – even geometry and algebra! I had to take a couple of college-of-education entry exams, which included math, reading and writing. After scheduling the exams, I began to study, especially for the math portions. It had been SO many years since I’d figured out these kinds of math problems and it was frustrating at first. I enlisted the help of my teenagers and used every resource I could, including library books and online exams/study guides. I filled out notebook after notebook of problems. I studied at every chance, including road trips and waiting at the dentist/doctor’s office. I took this quite seriously, as if I was taking a math course. Finally, I took the exams – a month apart – and I PASSED! Phew! My hard work paid off. I learned that you really are never too old to relearn math. Or anything.
Lastly, don’t worry about being the “oldest” in the classroom. So what? Get over it. There are always older people going back to college, even if they are not in your class. I met someone the other day who is getting a second masters and she’s at least two decades older than me! It’s actually great for our brains because we are putting off Alzheimer’s since we are challenging our brain cells. After studying for those math exams, I could practically feel my new brain cells growing!!
If you get the opportunity, like me, to go back to school – DO IT!! It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it. Now, I’m considering taking on a leadership role in the honor society. It could be fun…