Back to School at my Age?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 16, 2008 8:48 PM GMT
    This isn't a cheerleading thread or quest to receive any pep talks, I'm simply curious to know if you have had any (or know of any) experiences you'd be willing to share.

    More and more recently, I've been considering going back to school to complete my Masters. I've been out of school for some time, I'm 35 years of age and often times the thought frightens me. The obvious questions come to mind: Am I too old? Do I have the time? Is it really worth it? What's the value? Should I go all in or take it slow? What am I going to gain from it? etc, etc, etc.

    Any one like to share how they attacked returning to school late in the game?
  • Timbales

    Posts: 13993

    Sep 16, 2008 8:53 PM GMT
    How long will it take to complete your masters? How old will you be when you complete it?

    You'll be the same age then if you don't go back to school, right?

    The only thing I'd make sure of is to do is sit down and write out what you hope to gain from this and what it will mean for you. If you are doing it for a better job, is it a growing market? Are their jobs in your area? If not, are you willing to relocate?
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    Sep 16, 2008 9:12 PM GMT


    hey man, usually I'm the cynical type, but I can honestly tell you there's a lot of pride going back to school, regardless of age.

    My dad went back to school at 45 to get a second PhD, even though he didn't need it. He's my role model. Also, in today's market, a Master's exponentially increases your earning potential, age is irrelevant.

    I'm 23 now, 3 years till I finish med school, plus 4 more of residency, plus 4 more of my specialty (surgery). I'll be around 34 before I actually become a surgeon, but it's worth every moment I spend preparing for it.

    So go for it. Although I don't think anybody's ever too old to go back to school, in your case you're definitely still young, I'm sure you'll find it was well worth the effort.


    Good Luck!!
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    Sep 16, 2008 9:30 PM GMT
    One of my classmates is doing a phenomenological study on the experience of attending graduate school when over the age of 65 (last time I checked). I'm not certain what his findings are or where he is at in terms of sifting through the literature/interviews. I can say that I think we all come to our formal/informal education at the right time for us, rather than the time we "should" go to school.

    Wishing you all the best bro.
  • IdkMyBffJill

    Posts: 148

    Sep 16, 2008 9:39 PM GMT
    We have a guy who is in his mid 50's in my grad program. We also have several in their 30's .... they blend in and get the work done just like everyone else. I say go for it, if it is something you want to do.
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    Sep 16, 2008 9:42 PM GMT
    one of my classmates in the Registered Nursing program is 47 years old. he's one of the smartest/wisest guys in class, he's gonna be a great nurse.

    i think you should pursue your educational goal regardless of the age icon_biggrin.gif
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    Sep 16, 2008 9:44 PM GMT
    I'm 20 and still a jr in college. Earning my bfa. I'm in class with a woman in her thirties who is getting her bfa now. She has two kids and a job. If she can do it, anybody can. I say go for it! I know you said you're not looking for a pep rally support thread but hey...
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    Sep 16, 2008 9:53 PM GMT
    I did my master thesis practical plus presentation part last semester among 3 practical exercises ( programming and so on ) just to get it out of the way because the practicals are the biggest time consumers and problem creators when you have a job. 2 semesters ago I managed to do 7 exams, mostly math since I put them on the "yeah still gotta do those someday reserve bench". To be honest that semester nearly killed me time slot wise. But it was really worth it. This semester I am going to do 4 exams for the completion of the bacc. which is a minimum of 8 semesters here and not focus much on the master. Then I am definitely going to finish the master.
    For me it was absolutely worth it, I proved myself wrong to be too stupid for the big math exams and alone that was great. Soon my contract will be changed from part time/freelance to full time. I want the bacc. really bad till then, because alone that will give me more money monthly for the same job..... In my opinion you should set realistic goals. My goal has been 4 exams each semester considering the full time job. If it turned out to be more..great. On those you try to pass I would invest a lot of time. Failing is not an option while stressing yourself with time management. How many you take depends on your study. Here you sometimes get 2 ECTS credits on programming tasks that are so big you should get 8 considering your time invested. You are definitely not too old, I am just assuming here you still need to continue to work to satisfy the needs of your life you built and I do not think going all in is very realistic here. (time,family and so on)
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Sep 16, 2008 10:35 PM GMT
    Well, I've never not been in school, but I've definitely known people who weren't traditionally aged students.

    When I was an undergraduate, one of the most interesting students in the Physics class I did Supplemental Instruction for a 65-year-old woman. She hadn't gone to college when she was younger, instead getting married right out of high school and staying at home to raise the family. She had a grandson by the point she was in my class, and she felt that the best way to demonstrate just how important she thought education was was to go back and get her degree. And she took the calculus-based Physics class predominantly for engineering majors because she figured in for a penny, in for a pound. Every week, she'd come up to me with a list of questions of what she was expected to know by the next week, and to ask for references to learn the math that she had either never learned or else had forgotten in the intervening decades. I was really impressed.

    I've had a number of classmates who have been of different generations than I was, some as undergrads, some as grad students. In general, I think that the older students had better time-management skills (I had friends juggling having toddlers while both members of the couple were full time students, and others with teens at home) and were much more focused on why they were taking the classes and doing the assignments. They seemed, on the whole, less likely to try to coast and less likely to flake out on things, in part because being in school was so much more of a conscious decision on their part.

    You're certainly not too old. If it's worth it to you, you'll find the time. As for what you'll gain, and what the value is, that we can't possibly answer--not only does it depend on you the individual, it also depends on what your MS would be in and what sort of career path you'd like. The same sort of thing applies to whether you should jump fully into it or take things slowly. But, ultimately, don't let the fear of being unlike the other students hold you back. Anyone who does make any negative comment about having a guy in his mid-to-late 30s in an MS/MA program is going wind up being the one criticized for it, not the one leading the mob against you.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 16, 2008 11:37 PM GMT
    Well, I'm tentatively planning on starting/entering a PhD program full time, fall of 2010. I don't think I'm too old.
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    Sep 17, 2008 12:09 AM GMT
    jaydub saidThis isn't a cheerleading thread or quest to receive any pep talks, I'm simply curious to know if you have had any (or know of any) experiences you'd be willing to share.

    More and more recently, I've been considering going back to school to complete my Masters. I've been out of school for some time, I'm 35 years of age and often times the thought frightens me. The obvious questions come to mind: Am I too old? Do I have the time? Is it really worth it? What's the value? Should I go all in or take it slow? What am I going to gain from it? etc, etc, etc.

    Any one like to share how they attacked returning to school late in the game?


    I successfully returned to the college classroom as a student myself in my 50s. I was also a university student counselor, and assistant registrar, responsible for all the "non-traditional" (read mostly "older") students on our campus. This is an area where I claim some special expertise.

    Email me directly if you like, so we can go offline on this in detail. But in summary, it's a myth that older students are at a disadvantage. On the contrary, they tend to smoke their younger counterparts just out of HS, or those fresh from a bachelor's degree in the case of a Master's.

    Life experience really does trump youth in the classroom, where greater personal discipline, focus, clear goals and critical thinking skills allow the older students to run circles around the kids. True, there often is a brief adjustment period for the returning older student, but that soon passes as their superior strengths express themselves.

    The trick is to know and trust the greater advantages that life itself has given you. Fear not, you're gonna do just fine.

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 17, 2008 12:46 AM GMT
    I'm currently 39, and am going back to school next year for my MBA. So, 35 is not too old... icon_smile.gif
  • ajw18

    Posts: 141

    Sep 17, 2008 12:50 AM GMT
    My mother is currently 58 and started getting just her undergrad while working at a bank. Took her ten years! She said it was probably one of the most rewarding things she has done for her own self actualization. My siblings and I were so super proud to see her walk in her cap and gown.

    It may be a little weird for you when you start, but people will definitely recognize what you are doing and will admire you for it should you choose to start your masters.
  • VinBaltimore

    Posts: 239

    Sep 17, 2008 12:55 AM GMT
    I went back to school for my Masters when I was just a tad younger than you are now. I think all my work experience was a real asset in my course work.

    I started the program because I needed it to advance any further at work. I changed jobs while I was still in school and the new place didn't care about it one way or the other so it became less important to me as well (plus I was in the middle of coming out and that sorta took over my life for a while).

    I finished all the course work, but never did my thesis. icon_sad.gif My age was not a factor at all, my laziness was. Just make sure it's something YOU really want to do. I don't think I was ever fully vested in it since I was only doing it to get a better job.
  • DCEric

    Posts: 3713

    Sep 17, 2008 12:59 AM GMT
    Younger guy here, but I am finishing up my masters while working full time. It's tough, but it is doable if you can live with working long days. One suggestion: Don't skip a semester. There were 5 of us going through this program at the start ( I knew these people before we started taking classes), the three that said "I need to take a break, but I will get back to it", never did. The two of us that just pushed through are going to make it.
  • VinBaltimore

    Posts: 239

    Sep 17, 2008 1:04 AM GMT
    DCEric saidDon't skip a semester.


    EXCELLENT advice!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 17, 2008 1:20 AM GMT
    I'm 36 and prepping for university -- never been -- and I don't even have the academic background to do so -- yet -- hence the preparation, which also requires me to assemble an art portfolio. Plus, I'll have to work part-time to make it happen -- it's that important to me. Many will say "be practical", but, then, they're not in my shoes, are they? -- practicality has never been my forté!

    [sound the trumpets]
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    Sep 17, 2008 1:21 AM GMT
    I am 37 and just started as a junior in SF State's Nursing program. Eventually I want my masters and that will take years, and then I want more school after that, it's all worth it in the end.

    Never give up! Never surrender!
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    Sep 17, 2008 1:22 AM GMT
    ^ High five, bro -- Bravo!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 17, 2008 1:33 AM GMT
    You're never too old to learn something new. I have a feeling that there are going to be a ton of non-traditional students shortly with all that's been going on with the economy. 75% of realtors in my city are projected to be out of real estate before the end of the year. Also, the mess on Wall Street's probably going to create an influx of returning students.
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    Sep 17, 2008 1:40 AM GMT
    I already posted about my own middle-aged college work here, but I should also mention my late mother. She initially didn't go beyond HS because of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

    But by 1939, at age 22, she had bought her parents their first house in nearly 10 years. Rescuing them from a series of rentals and evictions, that began in 1930 when my devastated grandfather lost their home and everything else following the stock market crash. That a young, non-college-graduate single female, in the middle of the Great Depression could have done that, makes my mother one of my personal heroes.

    She went on to become a tax attorney, attending law school in middle age when few women of any age would have dared that. And after having raised my sister & myself, while at the same time holding public elective office and pursuing a full-time career, as well.

    (My late father had a no less impressive life, making him another of my heroes, but his path never led to college)

    Point is, age is only a barrier if you let it. On the contrary, in most cases it's an asset, if only you aren't tricked into the myth of the worship & fear of the young.

    It's endemic in the gay community, where youth is all that matters. But outside of that shallow world, maturity is a secret weapon that the more clever exploit to their advantage.

    My mother did it, my father did it, and I like to think that I have, too. And there's no reason that you shouldn't do it, too.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 17, 2008 1:54 AM GMT
    Thanks guys, I truly appreciate your input - you have definitely given me things to consider. (And it is nice to hear the positive feedback and attaboys.) Sorry for responding late, I've been on conference calls all evening. Yes, I believe time management will be crucial in figuring ways to achieve work-, home- and school-life balance.

    I'll try to answer a few questions you had. For how long it will take to get my Masters, depends on how I attack it I suppose. I think I've almost talked myself into it, but taking it slow, extremely slow, at first - 1 or 2 classes to start. Of course, they will have to be evening courses because I am in no position to return to school full-time.

    I do believe that setting goals is a great approach. I would assume I would be a bit more competitive in the job market, but I can say it's not why I want to return. More money is great, but it's not everything. I guess going back to school would provide me with the feeling of completion or accomplishment. This probably stems from my childhood of wanting to quit pee-wee football because I was tired of always landing on my back (if only I knew then what I know now) and my mother stressing that I must always finish what I started. "You're a Martin and Martin's don't quit. Martin's aren't quitters." (Uh... shivers down the spine!)

    I would be obtaining my MS in Industrial Engineering with a focus in Global Logistics. Plenty of job opportunities locally including my current position and while now wouldn't be a good time to relocate (family - kids, etc.), I wouldn't close the door to the possibility in the future.

    Librarian: I'm envious. And I can absolutely related to feeling "too stupid" - another concern. I sometimes sit with my 17 year old (step-son) as he's working on his AP Cal homework and scratch my head thinking, I know I know this stuff. Then my head starts to hurt so I return to the couch and finish watching SportsCenter. icon_confused.gif

    VinB: I have to say I'm a little concerned with being committed. I guess I need to seriously figure that out before I'm fully invested. Starting slow should help. I don't want to become overwhelmed where I end up resenting it.

    Okay, so I'm closer but still nervous.




  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 17, 2008 3:04 AM GMT
    People make midlife career changes frequently now, so it's not unusual to see students well beyond your age. I know 7 or 8 guys in their 40s who have gone back to school for nursing degrees.

    I went back to school for advanced degrees at 40. I liked school a lot more as a geriatric than as a 20-something. Of course, like Aero, practicality has never had much to do with the way I lead my life and even my advanced degrees were pursued out of intellectual curiosity, without much thought of their usefulness career-wise. If I had it to do over, I'd probably give more thought to practicality.

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 17, 2008 3:14 AM GMT
    Do IT.....Do IT.....DO IT...........

    I may not have had to go back to school, but I have in the past decided to pick up on some things that I let go years before.

    First, if you go for it, you will get the question out of your system and try it. If it doesn't work out, then move on to something else. If it does work out, the personal accomplishment is something that you will always have...nobody can take that away from you.

    Second...in the process of going for it, you will be in different situations, meeting new people, opening up new doors that may or may not be related to your chosen field of study. It's worth it. Life is full of surprises.

    Third....learning, whether it be in a formal school setting or otherwise is always always a good thing.

    Challenge yourself. Dump the remote control of the television, and go for it.

    Sorry, but I guess my response WAS a pep talk/cheerleading kind of response.....but I just wanted to say it.
  • bigtallguy

    Posts: 243

    Sep 17, 2008 3:15 AM GMT
    I remember when I was a junior in college there was a woman in her 50's who was getting her bachelors degree. That is not abnormal, but what struck me as interesting was that she opted to live in the undergraduate dorms.
    Not in a single room, but in a double with a random roommate who was some 20 year old college student.

    I can't imagine wanting to live with people right out of high school if I was her age. And I can't imagine showing up on move in day at my dorm and finding my roommate is old enough to be my parent.......but maybe it would have been awesome because I could have had them buy me beer.