Going Back to College at 30: What You Need To Know

Going back to college at 30 or in your thirties requires a lot of focus and commitment. Here’s a short list of what you need to know, but keep in mind that there’s so much more:

  1. How much time do you have?
  2. What do you want to do?
  3. How much research should you do?
  4. Do you have a plan?
  5. Are you ready?

Not only do you have the demands of being a student, but you also most likely have the demands of a day job and a family.

So, how can you manage the transition without losing grip on everything else in your life? How can you juggle your day-to-day responsibilities while also being successful in the classroom?

A middle-aged adult smiling.

Going back to college at 30:

We spoke with a number of adults who went back to college at 30 or in their 30’s. We found that there were 5 common things they found to be key to their success. 

Here’s their advice:

Time management is key

School takes a significant amount of time. Many graduates admitted their surprise about the amount of time that going back to school required; regardless of if it was online or on a traditional campus.

Use things like calendars, to-do apps, or even friends for time management to keep you on track and hold you accountable. Learn to maximize your time by multitasking or using technology to help you learn while you travel or eat.

Steve Wallis, a graduate that first went back to school at age 32, found time to study during his bus commute to and from work.

Learning to balance your time between family, work, and school is a whole new ball game. For many students it’s the biggest struggle they faced while getting their degree. Have a solid handle on everything takes work and strong time management skills. It will go a long way in helping you handle everything.

Decide exactly what it is that you want to get out of your degree

Whether you are looking to change careers, finish a degree you started in the past, or just enjoy learning, knowing the end result will help you to stay motivated while earning your degree.

Yveline Dalmacy, a graduate of the masters in diplomacy and international relations from Seton Hall University, suggests determining the real reason that you want to go back and weighing it against the anticipated gain—financial or otherwise. That way, if you start to lose motivation, you can remind yourself why you started to give yourself a boost.

Figure out the “why”. It will also help you to choose a program that will get you successfully to where you want to be.

Do your research before choosing a school or program

Without high school guidance counselors, parents, and teachers helping you through the college search, you will be doing a lot of the research on your own. Every single person we spoke with talked about the importance of doing a lot of in-depth research building their college list before choosing what format to go back to school and which school to choose.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of “diploma mills” out there. Those are schools without a strong academic track record that prey on the under-education of prospective students. So, be sure to do your homework fully and completely.

Alicia Jacobs, Director of Communications & Community Engagement at Excelsior University, a completely-online college, suggests that students look into the age, accreditation, and cost of both online and on-campus programs. Check out the reputation of the program within the field of study. It will help to make sure that the choice you’re making will benefit your career and help you to meet your goals.

Create a solid plan for getting your degree and stick with it

Getting your degree is a labor of love. In the beginning, you’re excited to start something new and to learn. But that can be easy to get bogged down in the middle when you’re juggling school, life, work, and anything else that comes up.

Creating a solid plan for your schooling helps you to stay focused and to keep the end goal in mind, and can help to save you money in the end.

In your plan, include specific timelines, milestones, and possibly even rewards to keep yourself not only motivated but also on track.

“Just DO it!”

This is by far the best advice that the graduates we interviewed had to give. Do your research and planning. Take a hard look at what you want to get out of your time spent getting your degree is a great way to prepare.

But the most important thing is to actually DO it.

Yvette Best, who went back to receive her bachelor’s degree in business administration, put it best. “Your education is the one thing that no one can take away from you.”

It can be hard to take that final leap. But once you have a solid plan, it’s time to take the first step. If you’ve done the research, you will be happy with the results! Going back to college at 30 doesn’t have to be as intimidating as you think it can be!

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