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Going back to school at 30

Are you 30 years of age or older and thinking of going back to school for your MBA? If you are, you’re in good company. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 45 percent of students who seek postbaccalaureate degrees are 30 or older.1 Some older students worry about taking the plunge and going back to college. They may fear they’ve forgotten the things they once learned, or they’re concerned that they can’t retain information the way they used to.

If you have any of these fears, or if you’re just worried that continuing your education would cause other important parts of your life like family and work to suffer, you can relax. The wiser, more mature you is more than capable of going back to college. Let’s look at some of the most common fears older students have and how you can conquer them when you pursue your MBA.

Fear: I can’t juggle work, family and school obligations.

Fact: You can juggle these tasks, although it’s hard to do it alone. You need a strong support system around you that can pick up the slack. Start by being honest with yourself about what you’d need to give up—maybe you can’t be PTA president for the next couple of years—and the tasks with which you’d need assistance. Talk to your boss about working more flexible hours or ask your partner about ways you can divvy up responsibilities, so you have more time to study.

An online degree program is a great way to give yourself some added flexibility. You can schedule study time around your life rather than having to attend classes at set times. To manage your schedule, it’s crucial to set specific study times and keep them as strictly as you’d keep an appointment with a client. Work ahead when you can so that increased demands outside of your degree program don’t knock you off track.

Fear: I can’t compete with younger students.

Fact: Those “younger students” may not be as young as you imagine. Almost half of students enrolled in universities today, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, are older than 25. And older students are determined: The graduation rate for returning adults can range between 95 and 98 percent.2

The key is to choose schools that are welcoming to older students and that offer resources for helping with career transitions. The school you choose should be responsive to your questions and prompt with answers, from the instructor of your online class to the clerk in the bursar’s office. Look for schools that provide a clear degree path so you know exactly which classes you need. Also, look for faculty with rich work experiences who can assist not only with course materials but also with real-life job and career advice.

Fear: I’m not just older. I’m way older. There’s just no way I can keep up.

Fact: Don’t be so sure that 18-year-old you was the best student you could ever be. When it comes to the way the aging brain works, there can be surprising advantages to being older.3

According to the UCLA Center on Aging, certain neurocircuitry factors favor age when it comes to having a better brain. A younger person may have a better short-term, grab-an-answer-quickly memory, but an older person with diverse experiences builds a wider, deeper, richer picture from different parts of their memory. As we age, this research also shows that our complex reasoning skills continue to improve.4

Fear: Employers don’t want older graduates.

Fact: Don’t fall prey to limiting thoughts like, “Employers don’t want to pay higher salaries for older workers.” Employers know that paying a competitive salary to someone who does the job well and who has incentive to stay with the company in the long term ends up being less expensive than dealing with constant turnover.

Additionally, to employers, diversity isn’t just about ethnicity and gender. Many employers are increasingly conscientious about the value of having a multigenerational workforce. Your existing job experience and the positive references you’ve built, in addition to what you’ll learn by going back to college, can make you a highly competitive job candidate.

Fear: It’s too late for me to get an education.

Fact: Bad news: You’re going to get older anyway. Why not be older with an advanced degree instead of without one? With only your current education, your job outlook is unlikely to change, but with an MBA, you have a chance at a higher salary and a more satisfying career.


It’s Time to Get Real About Going Back to College

There’s never been a better time to get your degree, and there’s never been a better you to tackle the challenge. You may be surprised to discover that you’re more mature, more experienced and more equipped for the challenge of an MBA program than you were years ago.

The University of Kansas School of Business has online programs that are ideal for students going back to school at 30 and over. Find out more about our online MBA program and how it can fit into your busy life.


1 Retrieved on April 6, 2018, from nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_226.asp
2 Retrieved on April 6, 2018, from chicagotribune.com/brandpublishing/advancededucation/chi-edtoday-myths-12011-story.html
3 Retrieved on April 6, 2018, from cnn.com/2012/06/19/health/enayati-aging-brain-innovation/index.html
4 Ibid.

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