Going to college isn't easy for anyone, but it's especially challenging once you've passed the years most people spend earning their degrees. These inspiring college students who went back to school offer hope and advice for those who covet university degree benefits, but are stymied by a full-time job or raising a family. It can be difficult to bond with your younger classmates who are under a different kind of pressure, and the challenges of attending college in your later years prevents many potential students from going back to school.
Reddit users shared what happened when they went back to earn their degree. Each of these college success stories is different, but they all have one very important thing in common: these scholars worked hard and changed their lives for the better, overcoming issues in education, personal barriers, and systematic indifference. Every one of the following stories is an example of an adult learner who opened up career opportunities while battling struggles that younger college students are not privy to.
From a former Redditor:
I just got my bachelor's this past December. I had attempted college back in the '90s, but a battle with cancer, and the subsequent "f*ck it all" attitude, led me to quit in my junior year.
After being laid off from various jobs in the last few years due to no fault of my own, I opted for some of those "Obama" programs geared toward adults returning to school for career realignment/retraining.
My wife earns a very comfortable salary at her job, and I was able to find a job willing to work around my school schedule to help make ends meet. My quest to find "the perfect job" now that I've graduated has not been so easy, but it's only been three months, and the outlook for my major is quite good.
The key piece of advice I would give is to very precisely determine exactly how long it will take you to graduate. Also you need to establish a very solid monthly budget so you won't ruin your credit or fall behind on your bills while you're out of the workforce.
From Redditor /u/artipants:
Things happened when I graduated high school that made it impossible to go directly to college. I worked retail selling cellphones for years then got a job as an admin assistant but never felt secure in my career. I tend to move states every few years and felt like it would be less stressful if I had a career rather than a job. I also got pregnant at 26 and realized I couldn't support a child myself. After a very traumatic pregnancy loss, I went back at 28 and graduated at 32. I wanted to go for accounting initially but ended up landing in statistics. Now I'm a database administrator/data analyst and love my job. I also make enough to support myself, my husband, and the kid we're trying to have. Most importantly, I feel like I could get a new job immediately anywhere I wanted if it came to it.
My only advice is to take advantage of all resources. Office hours are gold and most schools have some sort of returning adults program. It's easy to get complacent then suddenly realize you're having to rush to catch up if you're not used to studying from the start, and those things help keep you on top of things.
From Redditor /u/mikkylock:
I was 35 when I got my BA in art. Before it I worked as a shipping clerk part time. Now I am the paper pusher at a locksmith.
It was so so so worth it. Getting my degree did a lot for my self-esteem. It also helped determine that I didn't really want to pursue art as a job, at least not for now.
I went to community college part time for five years and then transferred to UCLA. It was awesome. I would say, take advantage of any support that you can get. I was a foster baby (from birth until 7 months) and I became part of their Guardian Scholarship club, and that was a definite benefit. Get the help you need to succeed. If you've been diagnosed with ADHD or some other learning disability, declare that the college, and make sure it's on record; and then use the services they provide for it, when you need it. First of all, it will help. Second of all, you never know when that will help you get a small scholarship of some sort.
One of the teachers I had said that the difference between the privileged wealthy students he taught (at a small expensive college) and the first-generation collegegoers at UCLA was that the latter tried to "go it alone" too much, and would often do poorly when they got over their head. The wealthy students assumed the teachers were there to help them do well, and sought help early and often.
Being older in college is a huge benefit. Don't try and fit in with the 20-year-olds... you mostly likely will stick out like a sore thumb. You have way more life experience, and believe it or not, that will help you a lot... it's amazing the things that 20 year olds don't know. More than likely you will be somewhere in between the teacher's age and the students' ages, and occasionally older than the teacher. Don't act older or wiser than the others... sure in some areas you are, but in many areas you aren't. Don't be afraid to ask the "dumb" questions. If you have the question, NO DOUBT there are other kids who do, and they will appreciate you asking them.
Sit up front in class, especially if you are the kind of person to get distracted. Sitting up front means that you will always be able to hear the teacher, and helps focus your attention.
From Redditor /u/41i5h4:
I did two undergrads before 30 (graduated [with a] BSc in nursing at 27) and then went back for my master’s in nursing at 32 (graduated at 34).
When I went back, I had to get a line of credit to cover my bills/tuition for school. The bank's loan manager told me she thought I was crazy for giving up a decent job. In fact, a lot of people, my significant other included, didn't understand why I wanted to do it. I had a well-respected, well-paying job. Why leave it?
Getting my master's allowed me to double my income within two years, I'm currently working in a job that's going to give me specific skills which will help me when I move on to a different job in the next few years - where I hope to work until I retire. I think I should be able to retire within 20 years... on my current salary, which I hope will increase over the next few decades, and so maybe even less than 20 years.
When I went back, I got used to explaining to people: I hope I live until 80. That gives me about 50 more years on this planet; what else am I going to do with my time? Surely I can go back to school for a few years.
I encourage anyone to go educate (or continue educating) yourself. Go for it!