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Tips for Going Back to School at 30

By Leslie Doyle
December 11, 2018

People return to school for many reasons: to advance in their current career, increase job security, transition into a new industry, or achieve a long-held personal goal. Whatever your motivation, the idea of returning to school may have you asking yourself questions like:

  • Can I really juggle the workload with my existing commitments and responsibilities?
  • What will it like studying after all this time away?
  • Will I be the oldest person in class?
  • Will I be able to keep up?

The good news is that you are not alone in having these doubts. College demographics have shifted considerably, with an increasing number of adult students balancing work and family obligations. Recent research has found that:

How Other Adult Learners Made the Leap

Now may be the right time to return to college–especially if your employer is helping to pay. Like many adult learners, Northeastern alumna Melissa Morales seized the opportunity to earn her bachelor’s degree, thanks to tuition reimbursement from her employer. After traveling abroad for several years, she secured a job with a biotechnology firm and found her calling, first earning a certificate in the industry and then deciding to further her education in the field.

“I was very fortunate,” Morales recalls. “My employer was very excited that I wanted to earn my degree, as they want employees who are top-of-the-line.”

Like Morales, Brian LaPointe also went to college after a long time away from the classroom.

“It was frightening taking my first class after a 10-year gap, but now I’ve been back for several semesters and I’m happy that all my professors assisted in my learning curve,” the current Northeastern student explains. “Getting used to the online format and working at the same time wasn’t as difficult as I had thought, and having professors that care made a huge difference.”

Christopher Fossetta also experienced the value of returning to school as an adult. After suffering a career-ending injury at age 47, he took online courses to earn his associate’s degree.

“Having been in the trades since a teenager, I felt this was a safe choice since I had never taken college classes before. After my first year, I really surprised myself by looking for, and enrolling in, a four-year program at Northeastern. I’m not only managing to get good grades, but I’m excelling beyond my expectations. I look forward to receiving my degree and continuing to law school to pursue juvenile legal aid.”

The Benefits of Returning to College at 30

Despite the doubts you may have, there are innumerable benefits to returning to school now that you’re a little older and wiser. By returning to school at age 30, you’ll be able to:

Grow Intellectually

After four years of high school, attending more classes may seem like drudgery. As an adult, however, you may have a greater appreciation for what you’ll learn in class. It often seems that the time people spend away from school—joining the workforce, raising a family, or gaining other life skills— can provide a renewed sense of the value of education to enrich your life. According to a Ruffalo Noel Levitz survey of National Student Satisfaction and Priorities, 69 percent of adult learners reported that they would re-enroll at the institution they were attending if they had the opportunity to do it all over again.

Increase Your Earning Potential

There’s no question that earning a college degree significantly increases your opportunity to earn more money. The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University found that over their lifetime, people who earn bachelor’s degrees and work full-time are likely to earn 84 percent more than their peers with a high school diploma.

Advance Your Career

Pursuing a degree helps you enhance your skills and gives you a myriad of opportunities to grow your career. It can also strengthen your job security if you’re earning a degree in the field where you currently work, as it demonstrates your dedication to the field to your employer. You will likely also be able to apply some of the lessons you learn in classes right away at work. Before enrolling, talk with your manager about your goals and how you feel your degree will bring value to your work. And be sure to show them the value of what you’re learning along the way.

Reinvent Yourself

It’s never too late to make a career shift and pursue a new arena you’re truly passionate about. Finding a new path can be invigorating. And this time around, you’re likely to have a better-defined view of your academic and career goals. This renewed focus can help you leverage what you learn in class as your move into a new field.

Sharpen Your Skills

College will give you opportunities you may not have had in high school to learn career-enhancing skills—from mastering the latest software tools to honing your writing skills to learning to collaborate with others. Don’t worry if these areas are outside your comfort zone. Many universities offer intensive workshops and academic advisor support to help you along the way.

Tips for Success as an Adult Learner

#1—Do your research.

As an adult learner, you’ll have many questions before returning to school. Check out the links below to discover the answers to the questions you may have about enrolling in Northeastern’s bachelor’s degree completion programs. 

#2—Build a support network.

As an adult learner, you may find it beneficial to join a small group of peers who can support one another throughout the semester. This is an opportunity to share insights, compare notes, and bolster one another when you feel overwhelmed. Having a diverse set of viewpoints can broaden your understanding of what you learn in class. And with multiple people providing input on the same material, you can deepen your understanding of each subject area. Don’t be shy about reaching out to other students in your class to set up a study group. 

#3—Communicate with your professors if you run into a roadblock.

Professors in degree completion programs understand that their students have many work and life responsibilities outside the classroom, and want to help you as much as possible to succeed. “Have an open dialogue about your work schedule and any challenges you’re concerned about,” says Morales. “In some cases, you have the flexibility to adapt your schedule or assignment dates.” 

#4—Believe in yourself.

“When things get tough and it’s a lot to juggle, just remember the reason you decided to go back to school in the first place,” says Morales. “Don’t doubt yourself. You can do this!”

To learn more about developing a personalized plan for returning to school, connect with a Northeastern advisor today. 

About Leslie Doyle
Leslie Doyle is a content contributor for Northeastern University.