Back to School After 55?

Mature Students Learning Computer Skills.

Learning a new skill later in life is an effective way to keep your mind sharp. Considering going back to school in your later years.

Retirement often means the opportunity to enjoy family, friends and hobbies.

With more time to do the things you truly enjoy, have you considered going back to school? There are many complexities when it comes to deciding whether going back to school is a right for you. Older adults have responsibilities that include children in their late teens or early 20s, so they have more on the line to consider. Because of these things, going back to school is a big decision to make. Even if the kids are gone and the mortgage is paid, there are still financial concerns.

If you are thinking about going back to school after the age of 55, here are few things to consider:

1) Who should go back to school after 55?

Who should consider going back to school? Anyone! An education is powerful and everyone should feel free to pursue it at any age. People who could benefit from going back to school are those that feel that they are lacking something within their daily routines. This could be something serious like feeling unfilled by a career and wanting to go in a different direction or simply having a lot of free time and wanting to fulfill curiosity and passion.  

2) What should Boomers study?

When deciding what to study, one would have to decide what their ultimate goal is. Do you want to finish a degree you started years ago? Do you want to casually take classes just for fun? Do you want to change careers? 

Janet Ruth Heller, Ph.D., a former college professor and professional writer, says that people are most successful if they pursue topics that they find interesting.

“Some individuals love science, while others love history or literature or art. I recommend that people over 55 choose classes in areas that intrigue them,” says Heller. “Another issue is changing a career. If someone wants a new career, he or she should focus on classes that will enable this job switch. For example, a person may want to take courses to improve computer skills, accounting skills, business management knowledge, etc.”

3. Where should someone attend school?

Irwin Hill, a former instructor at San Jose State University, says that if the idea of a traditional university setting is too overwhelming, Boomers can take advantage of online courses.

“Thanks to the Internet, education can include a lot more than going to a brick-and-mortar institution,” he says. However, “being with other students can provide a boost and socializing is a plus.”

Boomers who are considering going to school after 55 can attend courses at a university or community college. Like younger students, older adults should consult a counselor to determine which setting is right for them.

4. When should someone go to school? How much time should they spend on their education?

“This depends upon a person’s income and the amount of time available in his or her schedule,” says Heller. “I recommend that someone start with a course or two and take more if he or she really enjoys these classes.”

Because people in this age group can have family and work commitments, finding the right amount of time can be difficult. However, with online and evening courses that are typically offered, one could fit classes into their schedule.

5. Why should someone above the age of 55 go back to school? 

People in this age range should back to school if they feel that it will fulfill their hopes, passions and dreams. Heller says that “many people in this age group are frustrated with their jobs and are considering a new career. Many individuals in this age group also have a lot of energy and live far from their children and grandchildren or have no children.”

Putting energy into becoming more educated can keep the mind sharp and curiosity alive. Going back to school after 55 is one way to expand your horizons and stay social. 

6. How does someone in this age group finance their education?

“There are many educational options for people over 55,” says Heller. “Most colleges and universities offer free or low-cost non-credit courses in subjects like creative writing, painting, history, etc.

In addition, seniors can attend school free or at a reduced price. To see what educational opportunities are available in each state, check out The Penny Hoarder’s article, Senior Citizens Can Go to College for Free or Cheap in All 50 States.

If you are still employed, you can see if your company provides a program that pays for college course. Of course, this usually is available if the courses are related to your current position, but it doesn’t hurt to ask your human resources officer if such an incentive is available.

Getting an education is important in a big-picture sociological sense, but also in a very personal way. People above the age of 55 should continue their journey of learning in any way that they like, whether it be to pursue a degree for the career they always dreamed of having or to simply learn more about a subject that they are passionate about.

Julia West is a search marketing associate for Builders Digital Experience and a former content intern for NewHomeSource, where she contributes articles on a variety of topics about homebuilding, real estate and home and garden.

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