Back to School as a non-traditional student

Back to School as a non-traditional student

By Tereasa Neeley

Voices Editor

I decided to back to school because I had a lot of free time on my hands after a life-changing experience – Due to my age, I am considered an older adult.

Today we see more and more older adults going back to college. Although I am not trying to catch up on educational opportunities I had missed out on, there are many older adults who are going back to school for this reason.

Some decided to go directly into the work force out of necessity and were unable to go to college right away. Others may have felt intimidated about going to college.

I thought long and hard about my decision to go back to school, and when I finally decided to go back, I was already well into my second career and felt I would benefit from more education. I knew taking college classes would give me the opportunity to learn more aspects of my job. However, with an already full schedule, I faced juggling work, home, and college classes. I was aware there would be challenges with going back to college at an older age, however, I felt confident that I could overcome any obstacle sent my way.

Like many older adults, I already had a clear goal about what I wanted to study. After being accepted to Cameron University I enrolled in my first classes during the fall of 2019.

I was a little scared at first, however, I found that going back to school was easier than I thought. I had already earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice during the spring of 1994. I had set my sights set on a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Creative Writing. I had always enjoyed writing and decided to study writing on a professional level.

As an older adult, I found English college classes were easier to attend. Many older adults feel out of place at first, and they may also have a hard time connecting with the younger adult students.

Eventually, older students come to realize that they have many advantages over younger adult students. Many of these advantage come from more experience, positive perspective, and increased focus, which allows older student to learn easier and achieve higher standards of success than they may have done as younger students.

I found that many older adults, like myself, are willing to share details about our unique work experiences in the classroom. By sharing some of these struggles, challenges, and successes stories, with younger students, I began to notice that some were eager to learn more about my own work experience and found it interesting to learn what I had done in my career.Many younger student were surprised to learn that I was able to juggle college along with my professional and home life.

As an older adult student, I have found that I am learning a lot of things I never thought I would be learning about. Throughout my career, I have learned how to keep up with evolving technology, but have also discovered that there are some newer programs that I am not familiar with. There are also many older adults who are not familiar with the new technology and may struggle to learn new things.

I have found that if the older adults and the younger adults work together in study groups, this allows older adults to learn new skills and younger adults gain knowledge about work experience.

As an older adult, I feel I am more focused on my studies than I did when I was younger. I also feel like I am getting more out of my classes. I tend to understand more about what the professors lecture about, and I am not as confused or afraid to ask for help.

I prefer the in-class instruction as opposed to the online class instruction, finding that face-to-face interaction with the professors is invaluable.

Cameron does offer online classes to older adults who are unable to attend traditional classes. For me, when Covid hit I was at a loss with my classes. I felt I was not able to learn as much online as I would have in the classroom.

Now that classes are back to in-class instruction I feel more at ease. I am more relaxed knowing I can ask a question in class and get an answer without the spotty internet interrupting my classroom experience.

As an older adult I would recommend to other older adult that if they have a desire to go back to school and learn something new, they should definitely do it. If nothing else, they will broaden their horizons and get a better understanding of what younger adults are learning today.

Leave a Reply