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You don’t have to be fresh out of high school to decide to go to college. As a matter of fact, adult learners usually have several years of work experience and little-to-no college under their belt.
Colleges and universities often welcome students of all ages, as the decision to broaden your expertise or earn a degree is commendable. Many schools even offer flexible curriculums in multiple learning formats and times to accommodate working adults.
Mid-career professionals and retirees may question if pursuing higher education is worth it at whatever point they’ve reached in their lives. However, whether you’re considering finishing a degree program, seeking an advanced degree, or applying for the first time, these five reasons prove it’s never too late to go to college.
1. Complete a Degree Program
Did you know that 40% of all undergraduate students drop out before earning a degree, while 24.1% of first-year students leave in their first year? Maybe this was you — a young college student with too much on their plate to finish their academic program.
Students leave school for various reasons, including an inability to pay for their education and declining mental health. A 2017 study found that 63% of full-time enrolled undergraduates worked — 88% of which worked more than 20 hours weekly. Meanwhile, 81% and 60% of college students face anxiety issues and concerns about their mental health, respectively.
Another two-thirds of college dropouts come from disadvantaged backgrounds, with their families making less than $50,000 a year.
As time goes on, you may have found that the circumstances of your life have changed, and you no longer have to put off finishing your degree.
2. Career Advancement
Let’s say you enjoy your job but are looking to work up the career ladder. Attending college to confer an undergraduate or obtain a graduate-level education may help you reach a higher position.
Approximately 70% of employees seek career growth opportunities, while 76% say they lack the skills to do their jobs efficiently. However, working toward an advanced degree can bridge the skills gap and improve your professional expertise within your field.
You shouldn’t worry about your age when going back to school for a graduate degree either. The average graduate student’s age is 33, while 22% of students seeking a master’s degree are over 40.
3. Salary Increase
With career advancement often comes a salary increase. Likewise, you might earn higher wages in your current role if you’ve graduated at a certain degree level.
According to a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, the median weekly wages for workers with some college but no degree is $899 — bachelor’s degree holders earn $1,334 and master’s degree holders make about $1,574.
Another example is social and human service assistants, earning about $37,610 with a high school diploma. In contrast, those who pursue additional education and training may make a $74,000 median annual salary in a manager role.
4. Career Change
If career advancement and a higher salary aren’t enough for greater job satisfaction, returning to school later in life can help you transition to a new position or even an entirely different field.
If you thought you’d stay in your current role forever — either with or without a degree — you might be surprised to learn that one-third of American workers between 25 and 44 have changed industries since starting their first post-grad job.
In fact, amid 2021’s Great Resignation following the height of COVID-19, about 53% of U.S. workers sought a career change.
Perhaps even more surprising, a 2018 Indeed survey found that the average age for career changers is 39 and a well-thought-out decision, further contradicting the notion that young people are impulsively quitting jobs at a quick pace.
5. Learn Something New
Sometimes, going back to school for personal growth and greater wisdom is enough for knowledge’s sake. Although enrolling in school to simply learn something new is quite an investment, it has its advantages.
Maybe you regret your major when your passion was something different, or perhaps you miss the mental stimulation after you leave the workforce.
For other people, continuing education courses may be a more cost-effective alternative than enrolling in an entire academic program. While continuing education doesn’t result in a degree, you’ll have the opportunity to gain foundational skills and comprehension in subject-specific areas you enjoy.
Never Give Up Your Dreams of Being a College Graduate
You don’t need to be a recent high school graduate or in your early 20s to attend college. If you have the drive and ambition to learn something new or to finish a degree, you should consider investing in your education. Your dreams are attainable at any age.