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Response: Back to School


You're spot on with this column. I'm 49 and my wife is 50. We're both taking classes. She's says she helped put me through a master's and our son through a bachelor's, now it's her turn. She'll have her bachelor's next fall. My Ph.D. program is just beginning.

As I work with different businesses around the country I'm seeing an increasing emphasis on "what you can do" as opposed to "age". It is possible to "become more valuable in changing times" simply by becoming a non-stop learner.

To your suggestions on life-long learning I would add the following: (1) Increase listening skills. (2) Read professional journals outside your area of expertise (3) Let a young person teach you a skill they understand better than you (4) Revisit the classics of human relations and personal achievement (5) Develop a balanced approach to life

Thanks for your inspiring work.

Jim in Chattanooga, TN


I went to college immediately after high school graduation. This was in 1956 and I only remember seeing one or two "non-traditional" students on campus (only we did not know what to call them in those days).

My classes were all in the mornings, so I took a part-time job in an advertising department of a local department store. The imagined "glamour" of the grown-up, fully-employed world took its toll and I did not return to college after completion of my freshman year. I have now been a part of that "grown-up, fully employed" world for 40 years and have not had the opportunity to go back to school on a full-time basis. I have, however, taken many night-time college courses which have benefited me in more ways than I can list. I would encourage the unemployed to return to school on a full-time basis, but would also like to point out there are many benefits to be derived from just taking selected classes in the evenings for those of us who cannot afford to quit their jobs to attend full time.

Over the years, I have noticed a huge increase in "people my age" enrolled in these classes. So, don't be afraid that you will be competing with only the "kids"...and so what if you are the only middle-ager in the class? YOU have the edge!...js


Mike, I'm 38 years old and am still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. However, as a result of my life experiences and interests, I feel I have finally narrowed down my career choice. I want to become a practitioner of oriental medicine which would require a 3-year masters degree. I currently work as a system administrator, but not by choice... I stumbled into this line of work because it afforded me the opportunity to live and work in Asia. I'm divorced with a 9 year old son and am getting ready to re-marry. The thought of giving up my job, moving back to the states, and going to school full time scares the hell out of me! But, I feel that if I don't act within the next 2 years I may never try to fulfill my dream - it seems like it's now or never. Nonetheless, I want to say that it's people like you that show the rest of us that we are not alone in wanting to make something out of our lives - regardless of our age. Thanks for taking the time to show us that it is possible and that it can be done. Thanks for giving us courage!

Craig in Seoul

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I think your website is really great. I am just about to turn 37 years old. I am going back to school to study something I really love to do and hope some day to do professionally. I never got my degree in anything before because it's taken me this long to figure out something worth all that time and money.

Most of the time I'm fine with all this. But sometimes I find myself thinking, "Why are you doing this? You're too old and should be more responsible. The time for education is past."

What do you recommend for "combatting" these periods of negativity and non- positive thinking?

Thanks, again.




I suggest some uplifting reading. Biographies about people who've achieved things in later life would be a good starting place. On this site, you might read She Helped Give Us Thanksgiving.

Good luck and keep us up on your progress.


May 1, '99

hi i'm a 50yr old high sc hool graduate who has hit the wall salary wise after 27yrs at the same firm. I work in a failing manufacturing industry that has a no future. I'd like to go to college part time but have doubts about the finanacing as i have a mortgage to pay and probably couldn't get financial aid becuase of my current salary. Could you recommend a few of the least expensive ways to go about it. THANKS

Ray Walsh

August 14, 2000


 I too am heading back to school at the age of 40.  I will be getting my degree in Computer Information Systems.  Iím lucky as I have a father who is 80 yr.s old and still takes classes.  He took up AutoCAD at the age of 75, and is now doing it on a
consulting basis. He turns down full-time jobs all the time!  He is a real inspiration to me that it is never to late to learn anything. This was his first real experience with computers too!

I have had a real aptitude with computers and electronics all my life, so I wonít be starting out as green as he did. Iím very excited about going back, and canít wait to start. Iím disabled and I have found employment difficult to find with my present
credentials. I hope that I can find a way to do something I love, from home, once I have this degree and some experience under my belt.

My positive outlook doesnít mean I donít have my doubts about all that Iím taking on.  I try to focus on the wonderful things Iíll gain from all this new knowledge. Learning has always been an ongoing experience for me, Iím just going to do it more
intensively now.



Peg, What an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing it. ---- Mike

October 30, 2000

I enjoyed your article about going back to school, especially at my age.  I have a 21-year-old daughter who is a senior in college. I thought it would be tuff for me to return to school but if you saw some of her term papers, you would wonder why the professor even graded them. The easiest thing to do, is to spell check your finished work which she does not do. How infuriating!  Not to mention the grammar.  I know she can do better, I have seen her best works. Why should I then be afraid to conquer returning to school when I know at least my words will be spelled correctly! By the way I spell checked this letter before sending.


February 5, 2001

Hello, I am 30 years old and have worked as a secretary/receptionist since I got out of high school.  I am finding out however, that without any degree I am being passed up on the higher paying jobs and promotions.  My dream is to be in management or at least  higer on the latter as a secretary.  I can't help to think that if I went back to school and got my degree in Business Administration or something I would do better.  The only thing stopping me is money.  My husband and I both need to work full-time to make ends meet.  In order for me to qualify for financial aide I believe I need to be a full-time student.  Is there any financial aide out there that will help me with tuition plus living expenses so that I can still pay my bills, go school full-time and work part-time?  If anyone has any insight on this please help!!


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