A Guide to Going Back to College at 30

Going back to school at 30 or in your thirties requires a lot of focus and commitment. 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. But, at 30, your brain is fully developed and most 30-plus-year-olds are able to handle hard work and commitment better than they were in their late teens and early 20’s. So, is it right for you?

If you’re asking yourself ‘should I go back to school at 30?’ You’re not alone. Going back to school at 30 can be very different from going to college straight from high school. We spoke with several adults who went back to college in their thirties and asked them about their experiences and what advice they had to offer on how to go back to school at 30. We found that there were 5 common things they attributed as the key to their success. 

Before diving into their advice about going back to school at 30, we thought we’d first address one of the most commonly asked questions – ‘Is it too late to go back to school at 30?’ 

A middle-aged adult smiling.

Is It Too Late To Go Back To School At 30?

The short answer is no, it’s never too late to go back to school at any age. There are several benefits to choosing this path. And if you’re worried about being the only older student in your class, you may be in for a surprise. Today, more and more individuals of all ages are choosing to go back to college and get a higher education.   

These are just some of the many benefits of going back to school at 30 or even older. 

  1. In your thirties, you have a clearer idea of your goals after graduation. Not everyone is clear about their career plans when they join college right out of high school. But by the time you’re 30, you have a better idea of what you want to study and what you’re going to do with your degree. This can be a huge game-changer as you’ll know exactly what courses to choose to move you closer to your goal.
  2. You’re more mature and better prepared for more rigorous courses. Juggling classwork, assignments, and exams while also trying to maintain some sort of social life can be a struggle in your late teens and twenties. In your thirties, handling several commitments at a time comes naturally to you. You’ll find a way to complete your academics without compromising ongoing personal and professional responsibilities.
  3. Earning a higher education could help you move up in your company. It could also increase your earning potential. It’s quite common for an employee’s degree to limit their promotional avenues and income. Going back to school to complete your undergraduate or graduate degree or maybe specialize in a specific field can clear all obstacles in your path. Your commitment to self-improvement and career advancement won’t go unrecognized. Many employers also offer tuition reimbursement programs to encourage employees to upskill their education.
  4. Going back to school can equip you to pursue a new career path if that’s what you want. Maybe your current job doesn’t fit your personality. You want to change directions but don’t have the skills for the career path you wish to pursue. In this case, choosing a degree program that equips you with the necessary skills may be the answer. Getting paid to do a job you love makes going back to school at 30 totally worth it!

How To Go Back To School At 30: Advice From People Who Walked This Path

Going back to school can be as challenging as it can be exciting. It’s not something you should consider on a whim. There are a few things you must consider before making this decision. Here’s some important advice on how to go back to school at 30 from people who have walked this path. 

1. Time management is key to making it work 

Schoolwork takes a significant amount of time. When you’re in your thirties, you’re probably already handling other professional and personal commitments. While you may be adept at juggling it all, adding another responsibility to your schedule requires a higher level of time management. You want to be able to do justice to school and homework without getting burned out. 

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 who went back to school at age 32, talks about finding 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. Having a solid handle on everything takes work and strong time management skills. It will go a long way in helping you handle everything.

2. 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 and gave up, or just enjoy learning, knowing the result will help you to stay motivated while earning your degree. 

Yveline Dalmacy is a graduate of the master’s in diplomacy and international relations from Seton Hall University. She suggests determining the real reason 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.

3. 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 is the Director of Communications & Community Engagement at Excelsior University, a completely-online college. She 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.

4. 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.

5. “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!

Should I Go Back To School At 30 

You know the advantages of going back to school at 30. You also know it’s never too late to enroll in college. But maybe you’re asking ‘should I go back to school at 30’? It’s not an unusual question to ask. This may not be the right choice for everyone. 

Asking yourself these questions can help you decide whether or not this is the right path for you:

1. How much time do I have?

The amount of time you can realistically spare for your schoolwork is one of the biggest factors to consider. Do a time audit to determine how much time you can dedicate to school. Can you delegate some responsibilities and free up some time? Can you shuffle things around to make more time? Be realistic about your time commitments and constraints. You will need to put in some time to earn your degree. If you’re already struggling to manage, adding more to your plate may result in early burnout. 

2. What do I want to do after graduation?

Do you know what course you want to enroll in or what career you want to pursue after graduation? Or do you want to study but have no fixed plan in mind? It’s important to put some thought into figuring out your goal after graduation. This will help you choose the right program that will help you get there. 

3. Which is the right school for me?

Choosing the right school comes down to many factors. Choice of program, proximity to home, and cost of attendance are the three main factors to consider. Do your homework. If you have commitments that require you to stay home, your choices will be limited to schools in close proximity to home. If funds are a problem, the cost of tuition will be a huge factor as well. Don’t forget to factor in financial aid. You must spend some time researching your options before enrolling in any school. 

4. Do I have a plan?

Have you figured out how you’re going to manage it all? You know what your current commitments are. Do you have someone to fill in for you while you’re in class? If attending in-person classes is out of the question, an online course may work out better for you. Make sure to research online programs and only enroll in a recognized and accredited program.  

5. Am I ready?

Are you mentally and emotionally prepared for the challenging journey ahead of you? Are you prepared to put in the hard work and make a few sacrifices in order to enjoy the benefits later on? 

If you can have a solid, thought-out answer for each of the questions above, maybe it’s your time to “Just Do It!” And we can help. Using College Raptor can help you discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!

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