7 Tips for Starting College at 25, 30, and Beyond

Starting college at 25 or 30 is well within reach and much more common than you might think. Read our guide to learn why.

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by Staff Writers

Published February 4, 2022

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7 Tips for Starting College at 25, 30, and Beyond

It's a common misconception that most first-year college students are 18 years old. Many colleges serve older learners and other types of nontraditional students. In fall 2019, nearly 7 million college students — or about one-third of all enrolled college students — were age 25 or older.

Starting college at 25 or 30 is well within reach. Read on to learn why.

Is 25 Too Late to Start College?

The age of 25 is not too late to start college, as it is never too late to start college. Many of the most successful college students are older learners and working professionals. Oftentimes, these older college students bring several advantages to the classroom.

Older learners often boast real-world, professional experience and are used to managing their time around various family and professional obligations. Their experience and broader skill sets can help them better manage assignments, exams, and group projects.

Furthermore, older learners often feel more clarity about what they want in life, which may provide them with a clearer goal or purpose to work toward than their younger peers.

Starting College at 25, 30, or Later: 7 Key Tips

With the right mindset and preparation, older learners and working professionals can thrive in college. Below, we provide seven tips for starting college at 25, in your 30s, and beyond.

1. Establish a Clear Goal

A clear goal, or a powerful "why," is key to success when entering college at age 25 or later. Why do you want this degree? What job do you aspire to?

College is rewarding for most learners, but the workload can prove challenging at times. When the work gets tough, you need a clear goal to fall back on for motivation — a reason for why you're investing so much time and money in college.

2. Leverage Your Real-World Experience

Students who begin college at 25 or 30 often bring several years of professional experience into the classroom. Beyond just work, these older learners also bring life experience and perspectives that 18-year-olds often do not have.

This experience can benefit students in multiple ways. They may be able to earn credit for their life experience. If they've had more time to develop time-management skills, they may also find balancing their time and academic workload easier than younger students.

3. Make Networking Connections

Often, the connections you make in college are just important as the material you study and the degree you earn. Take time to get to know your professors and peers personally.

Finding mentors and networking with peers can lead to jobs down the line and ultimately help you advance in your chosen field. Additionally, beyond helping to secure a job, connecting with your peers and professors can make classes more enjoyable and rewarding.

4. Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself

Make sure you set reasonable expectations when you start college. At 25 or 30, it may take time to build connections with your younger peers. You may also need to adjust your routine to incorporate studying, projects, exams, and assignments.

Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to adapt. Remember, you have plenty of life experience that can help you tackle this new challenge.

5. Take Advantage of Student Support Services

Most colleges offer a suite of student support services designed to help learners thrive academically, socially, and professionally. You may be able to take advantage of resources like financial aid advisors, academic advisors, tutoring, technical support, and writing and career centers.

This support may prove especially important and helpful for learners juggling professional and family commitments with their college courses. These services are available for your use, so do your best to make the most of them.

6. Find a Program That Works With Your Schedule

Flexibility is key as an older student, especially if you have children or plan to work part or full time while studying.

Online programs may be an especially good fit, especially those that deliver all coursework asynchronously without set class times. Many of these programs are designed with working professionals in mind and only accept applicants with multiple years of work experience.

7. Remember That You're Not Alone

About one-third of college students are 25 or older. You are far from alone in starting college as an older adult, and many others have succeeded before you. If there are other older learners in your classes, reach out to them — they can provide support as you work your way through your courses.

When Is It Too Late to Go to College?

It is never too late to go to college or benefit from the advantages of a postsecondary degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bachelor's degree-holders earned a median weekly salary of $1,305 in 2020. Meanwhile, professionals with only a high school diploma earned a median weekly salary of $781.

Even if you're in your 30s, 40s, or beyond, it's not too late to boost your earning potential.

What's more, several organizations offer scholarships exclusively for older learners and working professionals. These awards can make going to college more accessible for prospective students who need to support their families.

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