6 Benefits of Being an Older College Student

6 Benefits of Being an Older College Student

September 23, 2021

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While older college students may seem rare, many learners pursuing higher education today actually fall into the category of "nontraditional" learners. There are numerous advantages to going back to college as a mature student, including the experience, perspective, and focus you can bring to your coursework.

As an older college student, you may feel a little out of place at first. However, when you realize the value you bring to your school, your classes, and your fellow students, you'll become more comfortable with your status and learn how to get the most out of your higher education experience.

Who Is Considered an Older College Student?

You may hear older college students referred to as adult learners, nontraditional students, or mature students. They vary widely in age, background, and previous educational attainment, making them the most diverse student group in the country. Typically, an adult learner is considered one who is 25 or older.

According to the Education Writers Association, more than 6.6 million adult students attended colleges and universities across the country in 2018. This represented 35% of the total student population.

Top 6 Advantages of Being an Older College Student

Below are six key advantages of being an older college student. Keep these in mind as you seek your degree and improve your chances of career success.

1. You Have Real-World Experience

Life experience is among the primary advantages of being an older college student. Once you have lived in the real world, you know what it means to work hard, manage your time well, and balance your personal, professional, and academic obligations.

You can also apply your real-world experience to your studies. You know best how your newly gained knowledge can help you advance in your career.

2. You Bring a Unique Perspective to the Classroom

Older college students add a great deal of value to class discussions and projects. They tend to possess knowledge and backgrounds that many traditional students do not.

As a nontraditional student, you can speak to your experience working for employers, overcoming challenges to find success in the workplace, and grappling with the various demands of adult life. You have simply lived longer and experienced more things, giving you unique perspectives on the concepts you explore in class.

3. You May Be More Focused and Motivated

Many people in college work hard, but older college students often have a greater appreciation of the importance of higher education and the value it holds. Older students attending college for the first time have likely seen how difficult it can be to move up in a career without a postsecondary education.

This can make mature students more motivated and focused on their goal of receiving a degree. It can also help them avoid many of the distractions that push other college students off track.

4. You Have Clear Goals

Many younger students enter school without clearly defined goals. It often takes them a year or two to choose their major and even longer to determine a career path. As a mature student, you likely have a defined objective in mind as you begin or restart your college journey.

This gives you many advantages, as you can strategically choose courses based on your goals. In some cases, older college students can graduate earlier by earning credit for previous work and life experiences.

5. You May Be More Committed

Older college students tend to maintain a much greater commitment to their studies and coursework. You are in school to learn, get good grades, and graduate as quickly as possible with a degree that can help you achieve your goals.

Research published in the Journal of College Student Development in 2012 found that nontraditional students displayed much higher levels of resilience and possessed strong coping strategies to stay on track in college.

6. You May Get Discounts on Classes

Some institutions offer discounts for older college students. For example, the University of Alaska, the University of Arkansas, Georgia Tech, and Penn State all offer free tuition to senior citizens. Other schools provide discounted tuition rates for nontraditional students who are either starting college for the first time or finishing their degree after spending some time away from school.

As a mature student, you may also get discounts on textbooks, school supplies, and other items.

Finding Success as an Older College Student

Many adults struggle with the idea of going back to college, but they often underestimate the advantages of being an older student. The knowledge, experience, perspective, and determination you can bring to your education will go a long way toward helping you find success.

Additionally, some schools may suit mature students better than others. When you do your research, look for institutions that make a point of reaching out to and welcoming nontraditional learners.

If you're still hesitant about going back to school, consider all the benefits of doing so. Try not to let fear prevent you from pursuing your dreams.


Feature Image: Hill Street Studios / DigitalVision / Getty Images

If you're longing for a career change, going back to college can be a smart choice, especially if you're interested in one of these four in-demand careers. Learn about scholarships available for adult learners and nontraditional students returning to school or pursuing higher education for the first time. Millions of single parents attend college each year. Learn about your enrollment options and how to earn your degree as a single parent.