What to expect when going back to school at 50

What to expect when going back to school at 50

You may find yourself considering going back to school or beginning your college education altogether — even as you continue to grow older. Going to college as an adult can be scary, but you’d be surprised by how many people are happy they took the leap. 

We sat down with someone just like you, who already made the jump to higher education – a father and husband with a full-time career. Keep reading for candid tips and advice if you’re considering going to college in your 50’s. 

Greg’s “Going Back to School at 50” Story 

Hello! My name is Greg and when I was 51 years old, I decided to go to college and earn my Bachelor’s degree in Engineering. Since earning my degree, I have also earned a new position within my company as an Engineering Manager.  I now coordinate engineering and architectural professionals’ activities and reports in support of construction lending throughout the United States. 

What did you do before you decided to go back to school?

In my previous role, before I decided to go to school, I actually worked for the same company as I do now in construction management. Although I fulfilled many of the tasks I am currently responsible for, I was not able to have the title or pay that goes with my current position without a degree. 

What motivated you to go back to school?

Going to school was something I had always considered, and it weighed on me heavily throughout my life. I wasn’t happy in my career, and I knew I was destined for more. One day, back in 2012, I had a conversation with my family that was the final push I needed to enroll in college. 

My daughter made a comment over dinner, saying, “ Dad, you’re the smartest person I know without a degree.” And I guess you can say, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Although I knew it wasn’t meant as an insult, it was the final push I needed.

I didn’t want to be the “smartest person without a degree.” I wanted to set a good example for my family and I wanted my children to be proud of me.

Were there any benefits to going back to school as an adult?

As an adult in my 50’s, I would say that I was able to focus more easily in class. I also think that since I was paying for school with my own paycheck, I was more driven and dedicated to my studies. 

Additionally, being more mature than my classmates, I wasn’t as distracted with social media, texting, etc during class and was able to pay attention and grasp the information more easily. 

Were there any negatives to going back to school as an adult?

Going to school as an adult was extremely difficult. I was working full time, doing consulting work, trying to make time for my family, and somehow fit class and homework into the mix. During my time in school, I was always exhausted and fighting to push forward. 

Having my wife and children to support and motivate me every day helped me persevere when it got tough and I wanted to give up. 

Do you have any advice for others considering going back to school as an adult?

  1. Once you decide what you want to do, make a plan, talk to school counselors in the department in which you want to study, and stick with it! 
  2. One thing I did was print out my course map, which had little check boxes next to each class I had to complete. I hung it in my office, and each time I completed a class, I would fill in the box. Keeping track of milestones and my progress helped keep me motivated and inspired. 
  3. Lastly, I would recommend finding a place and time in your home that you can dedicate to studying. For me, that time was 4 am. I would wake up before my wife so I could study without distraction before heading to work. Getting up early to complete my school work allowed me to sit down to dinner with my family every night and have some sort of normalcy. 

If you’re thinking about going to school in your 50’s, know that it’s going to be hard. For me, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I can also say, it was 100% worth it in the end. Now, my daughter says I’m the smartest person she knows, without a caveat.