Timberoo saidI just turned 40 and it's made me think about what I want to do with the next 30 years. Anyone else been in a similar situation?
Somewhat, and in a way that may be relevant for you. At 50 I decided my Army retirement money wasn't enough as my 2 kids were getting older (they lived with their mother), so I got a job with a university.
At first I was doing Enrollment Services (aka recruitment), specializing in older, "non-traditional" students like you'd be, who were transferring from other programs, or resuming their college work after many years, or who had never attended college.
In less than a year I became the Assistant Registrar, my primary duties once again being with older transfer students, plus responsibility for all transcripts, both transfer and current, and for certifying degree completions. In both positions I counseled students just like yourself, especially before I joined the Registrar's office, when I had close to 200 non-traditional advisees.
The biggest fear among older students was that they'd be at an academic disadvantage compared to younger "traditional" students just out of high school in the undergraduate program, or even in the graduate program, many students still relatively young, having just completed their undergraduate. Every day I'd hear "I'm older now, don't have as sharp a mind, and I haven't opened a book in years. Those kids are all bright and fresh, I'm afraid I'll look foolish in class."
And I'd assure them the exact opposite was true, and I had the computer analysis of our own students on campus to prove it, that I did myself, and the reports of studies done all over the US, that older college students actually have better academic performance than younger traditional ones. Here's why, and why you would, too:
- you are infinitely more self-disciplined than a young person, and success in college in all about self-disciplne. A high-schooler follows an assigned schedule, is always under direction. In college you aren't herded from class to class, you're not under direction, you are in fact on your own. And so many fall flat on their faces. And actually that continues right into graduate school, even gets worse, for those who haven't ever been in the "real world" of strict schedules for which you alone are responsible, and must follow performance goals or lose your job.
- you have the ability to look beyond what a text book says, to what it means. In college, most good professors are concerned about the meaning, not the memorization that is the basis for high school learning. One can always look up factual references, especially now in this Age of Google, but do you UNDERSTAND what you're reading, its significance? That is what separates college from high school, and graduate studies even more. The more mature student will see this difference naturally, while the younger has to struggle.
- you have other Life Skills a younger student cannot possibly have, and they have useful advantages in the classroom. You'll be able to "read" your professors just as easily as you read your course books, and discern what his or her focus and style is. The younger student tries to read and memorize a whole text book, a nearly impossible task. The mature student audits course material, sensing what the professor thinks is essential, and anticipating the kinds of questions likely to be asked on exams. And so the older student focuses on that alone, avoiding wasted time & energy, and producing better results.
Epilogue: my epilepsy and other neurological problems were again my undoing, and I couldn't hold that position for long. Then I thought I might try teaching high school, but myself had to return to college for a certificate. Despite having umpteen degrees and having taught college, high school requires a state certificate with mandatory course work. Well, I practiced what I just preached above, and got all A's, and taught a little HS before that also became impossible due to my health.
But I might recommend high school teaching for you, especially of juniors & seniors, which I did. They're practically adults, beginning to become focused on goals and college, lots easier to motivate and relate to than kids, at least for me. Good luck to you.