Back to School

August 05, 2021

It’s Back to School – For Mom!

We all know that August is that month when kids return to school and parents issue a sigh of relief that their offspring continue the time honored role of student.  But what if the student is now Mom or Dad or even Grandma?  Studies are showing that in the post pandemic world, universities, community colleges and trade schools are seeing a significant uptick in older adult enrollment.  No longer the non-traditional student, adults who return to school are not as rare as they once were.  Most adults have figured out that there is no such thing as knowing it all, that as soon as we think we have it all figured out, something happens, or is improved upon or is changed from what we knew.  Adults who go back to school typically fall into three categories: people who want to switch careers and need specialized courses, first time collegians and older adults looking to pursue a topic that interests them. 

A study by the Berkeley School of Psychology gave evidence that fully 65% of college graduates were not employed in the field of their degrees.  They reported their dissatisfaction from choosing  a career that did not fulfill them.  Many said the thought of staying in their current job was disheartening and the switch was better late than never.  Moreover, many of these people voiced concern that they wanted to show their children that the pursuit of a career should not be about money but satisfaction.

A survey of 16 U.S.  universities showed that 36% of their incoming freshmen were above the age of 25.  While many factors go into this statistic the over arching reason given is that the gap years, or “getting some experience in real life” contribute to a more focused career path.  It also indicated that potential students were reacting to job opportunities that needed a college education. 

A growing group of back to schoolers are the students who have a deeper motivational reason.  For many older students this is often related to courses that were not offered when they were in school or topics they have become interested as adults.  The tech worker that decides to go back to learn forestry or the nurse who now wants to become a doctor can now pursue those goals without constraints. These students have found a career path that has meaning and value in their lives. 

It takes bravery and tenacity to go back to school as an older adult, especially if one has been away from a classroom for a long time.  It can require a lifestyle change and can be difficult if you have a family or job to care for. But it can also be extremely rewarding.  As one student said, “I now sit and do homework with my 14 year old son and we both have found out we don’t like math!” Learning never stops and the fascination with learning something new or something no one else knows helps to keep us young and involved.  Returning to school for personal satisfaction, for self confidence and to be role models for others are great motivators, but to embrace the notion that you are never too late in life to go back to school or knowing there is always more to learn can free you up to find that one thing that will make you happy.