Non-Traditional Students – Going Back to College Later in Life


The average person now has between three and five careers in his or her life.  The days of working for one company for forty years, collecting the pension and gold watch, and retiring comfortably are long gone.  They have disappeared into a foggy, pro-corporate haze of profits first, workers second.  To succeed, people must now reinvent their lives.

Most people today who have studied a certain subject in college have many skills related to that subject but not many other skills.  With the shrinking job market and the change in what types of jobs are needed in the new economy, jobs that were once heavily sought are now dead.  Unemployed workers now find themselves possessing great numbers of skills that are no longer needed.  Where can one get the skills necessary for reinvention?

The best option is to return to school for a new course of study.  There are two main options on returning to school:  Traditional College or University for a post-graduate degree or attending a vocational school or trade school.  Both have their merits.  If a person wants to switch professional careers, college or university is the answer.  Examples might include a laid off teacher studying to pass the bar by getting a law degree or an accountant out of a job because his firm went bankrupt studying engineering.

Other people might be tired of academia and wearing a suit and tie to work every day.  These people might branch out into skilled trades or other occupations.  That same teacher from the previous example might instead want to open a salon as a hairdresser.  The accountant might instead want to learn machining and run a lathe.  Nothing is wrong with these highly skilled, yet non-academic careers.  They require schooling the same as the professional careers.

Non-traditional students now make up over one-third of all college and post-graduate enrollment.  Many of them are just like you and have traded jobs, willingly or unwillingly.  You need training to succeed in a new career.  Most colleges and universities offer flexible programs of study to help you schedule around any interim job you might have or family commitments.  Even Harvard University offers a program of this type, the Harvard Extension School.  Contact the schools in your area and ask what programs they offer.  Ask them about financial aid.  See if they offer daycare.  Move forward and embrace the changes in your life.