Starting College at 25 (or Older): Why It’s Not Too Late

photo of a student starting college at age 25 working at a desk

Everyone is nervous before their first day of college, but starting college at 25 (or 45!) is a lot different from walking onto campus as an 18-year-old. Earning a degree is the right next step for pursuing your career goals. Still, you’re struggling to see yourself as a college student.

You’re not alone in experiencing a bit of cold feet before deciding to enroll in college as an adult learner. Maybe you’re worried that you won’t be able to fit in with the other students or that your study skills will be too rusty—after all, who doesn’t have a somewhat fuzzy recall of the finer points of Algebra ten years later?

Take some comfort in knowing you’re not alone in this feeling. These are common concerns that many adult learners have felt—and overcome. That’s why we’ve connected with others who have stood in your shoes to hear their perspectives on the experience of starting college at 30 or beyond. Keep reading to hear their advice and encouragement as you consider enrolling in a degree program.

6 Reasons it’s not too late to start college after 25

While seeing a baby-faced 18-year-old excitedly talk about their major and their dreams of taking the working world by storm might make you feel aged beyond your years, there are plenty of good reasons to believe you’ll be positioned for success. Let’s dig in to a handful of them.

1. You have a strong perspective and motivation for earning your degree

“After taking the time to experience life and learn what I really wanted to do, I was committed to earning my degree,” says Melissa Drake, founder of Uncorped Influence. This understanding of why earning a degree is so important to you can be a strong motivator in succeeding in a degree program.

Many traditional students have trouble focusing on coursework that feels like a slog, but adult learners can fall back on their “why” and the discipline they’ve learned in the workforce to continue moving forward. “I was there to learn and get things done and had a bit more drive compared to when I was a high school graduate,” says Bob Bradley, publicist at Bradley PR & Marketing.

2. You have clear career goals

One of the most overlooked benefits of enrolling in college as an adult is that you have a stronger sense of what you hope to achieve with your degree. “Many people I know who go to college at a young age usually get degrees they regret or don’t use,” says Ashleah Merritt Hudson, a writer and editor who started college at age 30. “Going to college later in life, I believe I had a better idea of what I truly wanted out of life.”

Unlike younger students, who may be attending college without a clear sense of their career goals, most adult learners can confidently point to a specific career path or area of knowledge they hope to grow in. Drake agrees, sharing that her focus allowed her to take more classes she was truly interested in and that were relevant to her career goals rather than taking random courses just to meet credit requirements.

3. Your age is just a number

Maybe you’re afraid of being the oldest person in the class, but that might not necessarily be true! A report from the National Center for Education Statistics found that college attendees in both the 25 to 34 and 35+ age brackets have steadily increased since 2001, with the former age group projected to see an 11 percent increase between 2015 and 2026.1 Adult learners are much more common than they used to be, so chances are that you’re worried about nothing!

Even if you do find yourself in a cohort full of 18-year-olds, the adult learners we spoke with said their ages didn’t hinder them in connecting with other students. “While I was worried what the younger students would think of me, I found they were especially kind, supportive and helpful,” says Lynell Ross, resource director for Test Prep Insight who went back to school at age 49. “I participated in study groups with them, which helped me build my confidence and helped make me feel more a part of campus life.”

4. Flexible programs can help you manage the time commitment

It’s no secret most 18-year-olds have less on their plates than older students, so it’s only natural if you’re a little worried about adding education into the mix of responsibilities you must balance. One of Melissa Drake’s biggest concerns before enrolling in a degree program was how she would manage her time as a student, single mom and full-time employee. “I wondered if I'd really be able to manage my time well enough to perform in all areas that were required,” Drake says.

It can feel like a balancing act to make time for family, work and education. However, with the right type of degree program, making space for all your responsibilities can be a lot easier. Drake chose a program that focused on working adults, allowing her the flexibility she needed to complete her studies without neglecting family and work.

5. Your study skills can be brought up to speed

Although your study skills may be rusty at first, the adult learners we spoke with found that good study habits returned quickly—often better than they had been in high school! “As an adult, I was much more focused on learning and reaching my goals. I was also more open to researching new things,” Ross says.

Bradley admits that it did take some time for him to get back into the “school mindset,” but it wasn’t long before he found his footing. “I took advantage of study groups with other students when I hit a wall in certain subjects,” Bradley says. “I really just had to dive in and commit to the learning process, even if it was different for me compared to someone younger.”

Seeking out student resources, like peer tutoring or mentoring, can do wonders for getting you back up to speed. There’s no shame in seeking these out, either—you’re investing the time, money and effort into an education, so follow through!

6. Lifelong learning matters

While there’s certainly some comfort to be found in a steady routine, stagnation in life—and in your education specifically—should be avoided. There’s a lot out there to learn and experience, and the pursuit of that is valuable. The adult learners we spoke with all agree that the fulfillment of pursuing your dreams and becoming a lifelong learner far outweigh any discomfort you may feel about starting college as an adult. “Put your pride aside and take the leap,” Bradley says. “It's exciting and will add a new level of depth to your life.”

“Going back to college changed my life for the better and enabled me to work in a field that brings meaning and purpose to my life,” Ross says. “We should all be lifelong learners.”

Take the next step in your learning journey

Starting college at 25 or beyond may feel daunting, but it’s worth your while when the result is accomplishing your goals and pursuing a more fulfilling career.

Adult learners can have challenges to overcome, but don’t let that hold you back from pursuing an education! Learn about these 9 Surprising Student Resources You Didn’t Know Rasmussen University Offered to find out about some of the support services you’ll have to help you on your way to academic achievement.

1William Hussar and Tabitha Bailey. “Projections of Education Statistics to 2026: 45th Edition” National Center for Education Statistics. April, 2018 [accessed May 2021] https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018019.pdf

Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

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