How to Get Ready to Go Back to School If You Are 55 or Older

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More adults ages 55 and older are going back to school -- many simply for the sake of learning. For those who have retired from one career, but may be thinking about pursuing another, age offers some definite advantages over the younger, traditional students in the classroom. If you are an older adult thinking about going back to school, be prepared.

Use your life experiences as an asset in taking college classes. These may include lessons in persistence and patience. You can rely on the knowledge that you have gained throughout the years to help you understand and apply what you will be learning now.

Schedule only one course per semester until you get used to a classroom environment again. Many older students, however, are ready to take more than one class from the start. Nontraditional students are often more motivated than traditional college students, and already have mastered efficient time-management skills. Older students typically are able to prioritize tasks better, too.

Inquire about job-training programs the school offers to nontraditional students enrolling in classes. Many colleges now are targeting older students who either wish to remain in the workforce after retirement age, or who want to train for a new career after retiring.

Seek assistance in applying for financial aid. Many older students are unfamiliar with seemingly complicated state and federal financial-aid processes. You also should inquire about scholarships to help pay for your education. Do not assume that because you are an older student you will not be eligible for scholarship aid. Many scholarships are based on a student's need, regardless of age. Other scholarships are offered specifically to older students returning to school. You may need help from a knowledgeable source in locating some of the scholarships available, but it will be worth the time and effort invested. Contact the school's Financial Aid Office for more information.

Develop adequate computer-literacy skills if you haven't already. Students must have the basic technology skills needed to be successful in academic programs at the college level. Proficiency in word processing and presentation skills are essential -- even more so if you take some online courses. Database and spreadsheet knowledge also may be required for certain programs of study. If your skills are weak in these areas, you might consider enrolling in some basic computer classes beforehand. Many colleges and universities offer mini-courses.


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