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Why Go to College When You’re Older – My Story

What a silly question that is, you might say. Here’s my story and it has a happy ending.


I went to college for the first time when I was about 40. I had just gotten divorced and felt the need to expand my horizons and my education. I got married right out of high school, and although I took college classes, I knew I wasn’t going to attend college. After 40, I knew if I wanted to jump ahead at work I would need a degree to be competitive. It was also good for my children to see that it might be easier for them to attend college sooner than later.


While I attended college I met fellow students of all ages, backgrounds and desires. Some were fulfilling a long time dream, some were doing what I was and trying to get ahead, others were doing it for the fun of learning. So you ask, how was it mingling with younger students? Did they make fun of me? Did they engage with me? Did I feel out of place? My experience was that we each respected one-another because we were all after the same goal. And actually, maybe going to college in your later years makes one more motivated and earnest in the learning process.

I recently read about a national survey done by Champlain College in 2018. They found that adults over 50 were the majority of degree seekers in the United States. Who knew?


I began at the junior college level. It was close, cheaper and felt like a good way to begin. It helped to reground me and gave me a good start. I received credit for past work and life experiences which helped a great deal; it took time to obtain my back-up/proof for this, but was worthwhile. It took many years of attending a few nights a week but I graduated with Associate Degrees in three different majors (Computer Information Management, Office Information Services and Business Management).


There is an interesting aside to the graduation story that taught me a lesson. I had decided not to attend graduation ceremonies. After all, I was older, grateful for the experience and degrees, but I didn’t think I needed to attend the ceremony. One Saturday I was in the TV room at home, had the TV on and changed it to the local station; all of sudden there was my junior college on the TV. And yes, believe it or not the graduation ceremony. They say God works in mysterious ways. Here is one coming at ‘ya. I even heard my name being read. Obviously I ‘did’ need to be there to acknowledge myself for all the effort. Crazy, interesting, way out there occurrence. Yes. All of the above. I learned that it was really important to acknowledge myself for the hard work and time I had put in to achieve those three degrees. We humans are so silly sometimes!


The next thing I needed was my BA, but how was I supposed to go about that? The counselors at the junior college helped me decide which universities would be good to apply to. I also had to dig in and decide what degree would suit me best. I had good grades so I could even expect to receive grant money.

I am a risk taker so the next step I took wouldn’t be for everyone. I did the math and decided it wouldn’t be efficient timewise to drive back and forth from my condo to the university. Also, it wasn’t cost effective to keep my condo, even if I rented it out. I sold it to a friend, cashed in my IRA money and rented an apartment close to the university. Everyone has their own best way to make this work.

For extra money, I helped others in the university computer lab a few mornings a week. In the summer, I taught an art class for little kids at the university.

I emerged two years later with a BA in Communications/Creative Writing. If you are wondering, yes, I attended the graduation ceremony and felt proud of my achievement. And…yes, that BA degree helped me obtain a position at my old workplace in their new Communications Department. They were happy and I was grateful for the job and the raise due to my degree.

So if you are wondering if it might be worth going to college while you are older, my answer is ‘yes’ give it a try. You could end up glad you did!

Joanne is a professional speaker, writer, organizer, and certified life coach. She received her Communications/Creative Writing BS degree from Chapman University in Orange, California.

Since deciding to attend college in her later years, she is well versed in the why and how it works. Her children were inspired to continue their education after high school, after watching their mom attend at an advanced age. Joanne was working for a Fortune 500 Company and knew getting a college degree would make her more competitive in the job market. She started at the junior college level and transferred her credits to Chapman. To her amazement, after graduation, a new Communications Department opened up and she was selected to be one of the Communications Specialists in the new department. It was also at a pay increase which made it all the more satisfying.

Currently, Joanne has her first two e-books in her Better Life Series on “How to Have More Love and Peace in Your Life,” and “Four Steps to Happiness.” “Beyond Hoping” is in the works along with a children’s book.

Joanne has seen how a college education can create new opportunities for young and old students and wishes she had a team like My College Planning Team available to her and her children to assist with their process and save them time, stress and money.

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