Updated February 2023
Does this sound familiar? You’ve been out of school for a (possibly long) while, you’re dissatisfied with the way things are, and you want to pursue additional training so you can get on a more meaningful path.
You know that enrolling in a college program is a great way to learn new skills and enhance your value in the job market. But something’s holding you back.
Going to college as a mature learner can seem intimidating, but thousands of people do it every year. According to government data, more than one-quarter of students pursuing diplomas at Canadian colleges in 2020-2021 were over the age of 25.
In this post, we tackle the four biggest concerns shared by many adults just like you who are pondering going back to school.
Keep reading to see how you can overcome the obstacles and achieve your goals.
CONCERN #1: FINDING THE TIME
It can be difficult to imagine fitting classes into your life when you’re already dealing with work, family, or other obligations.
Plenty of colleges understand this—and offer training specifically tailored for busy adults, with multiple start dates and flexible scheduling.
You may be able to go to classes in the evenings, complete them online, or do a mix of both.
Attending part time could allow you to complete your studies without becoming overwhelmed. On the other hand, full-time accelerated programs could help you prepare for your new career in less time.
Talk to the admissions team at the colleges you’re considering. A good advisor will work with you to build a learning schedule that suits your individual needs.
CONCERN #2: MANAGING THE COST
You may be worried about how to find the money to pay for your training. The good news is that there are many ways adults returning to school can get help with those costs.
If you’re currently working, see if your employer offers a tuition assistance program. Some companies will reimburse tuition and book fees up to a certain amount for employees who complete relevant certificate or diploma programs.
Grants are another option. For instance, the Canada Student Grant for Full-Time Students provides up to $6,000 per year for those who are eligible. You can qualify for even more funding if you have dependents, or if you’ve been out of school for 10 years or more.
Then there are programs like Better Jobs Ontario, which offers financial support for adults who have lost their jobs and want to retrain through a short college program.
Plus, colleges frequently offer scholarships, and for a variety of reasons (not just academic achievement). Check with the schools you’re interested in to find out what’s available.
CONCERN #3: LACKING TECHNOLOGY SKILLS
Not everyone is super comfortable with digital technology. However, many colleges offer short tutorials or prep courses to help students learn the basics. And instructors understand that everyone comes in with different abilities.
Michelle Riedner was a married mother of three who spent years in the food service industry before deciding to pursue college-level accounting training. The catch: she had never used a computer.
“I took this program with absolutely no previous experience with computers or accounting software. I had to learn everything from scratch: how to log on to the computer, how to access different files, and how to work a mouse and a keyboard.
Each step that others take for granted was a brand-new experience for me.”
In just over a year, Michelle went from having zero computer skills to landing an accounting job where she carries out a variety of computerized tasks.
“Now, I work daily in QuickBooks and SharePoint. I have learned how to type faster and answer the phone professionally—and I am learning new skills every day.
I get up every morning and look forward to going to work, which is something I had lost in my previous career.”
CONCERN #4: NOT FITTING IN
Many adults who think about going back to school worry that they will stand out awkwardly among a group of younger classmates.
But chances are you won’t be the only mature learner there. Many college programs attract students of all ages, who benefit from sharing their unique experiences.
At 58, Pauline Hughes-Derome had worked for many years in bookkeeping and human resources. But then her sister passed away from cancer, and Pauline resolved to begin a new career supporting people with life-threatening illnesses.
“The one thing that held me back was my age. I thought I was too old to go back to school. But my daughter kept encouraging me to go for it.
Going into the personal support worker program, I was worried. But once I got there, the instructor made us feel so welcome and comfortable.
My class had people from all age groups and backgrounds. I wasn’t the only older student. We all got along really well and worked together.”
Pauline’s advice for those on the fence?
“Go for it! I’ve been telling friends who are thinking of going back to school not to hesitate or procrastinate. Just take that first step.”
START CREATING A MORE FULFILLING FUTURE
It’s normal to have concerns about going back to school as an adult, but it’s absolutely possible to overcome the challenges. And the rewards—gaining new skills and boosting your employment prospects—can make all your efforts worthwhile.
At Herzing, many of our students are adults with jobs, families, and tight budgets. We offer the training, flexibility, and support you need to change your life for the better.
Click below to explore our programs and see how we can help you reach your goals.