Mid-Life Freshman: Back To School At 30
Source: Open Talk Magazine 12/12/2010 00:49:00
After a long career in advertising and customer services, Amanda decided to go back to school for a master’s degree in education. “I’ve been thinking about going back to school for a while now,” Amanda says. “I just never seemed to have the time or the money.” The turning point came a few years ago when she was between jobs. “I thought to myself, why not do it now?”
She had one concern: she was 35. “I wasn’t sure I still had the energy for school,” Amanda admits. “I was worried I wouldn’t fit in; especially if the rest of the class were in their twenties.”
Amanda is not alone. More and more adults are going back to school—whether for their undergraduate or postgraduate degrees, or short courses—in their thirties. Their reasons vary: personal enrichment, career advancement, or career change. For Amanda, it was because she was mulling a career shift to teaching. “It’s always been my dream to teach,” she says. “Having a postgraduate degree in education is a major tool for me to achieve this.”
In deciding to go back to school, here are some points Amanda had to consider: should she become a full-time student? Does she have enough money saved up for this? Can she combine work and school? Will her employer allow her some flexibility for this?
Amanda decided to continue working while studying. She had bills to pay, and she had to make sure that she had enough money for tuition each term. Finances were not an excuse to drop out. While Amanda put herself through school, some of her friends had their employers pay for their education. One of her friends, Ronald, had his MBA education fully subsidized by his company. In return, he had to sign an agreement saying he would continue working for the company for the next five years.
Another point to consider is finding the time to study. Postgraduate courses can be quite demanding and competitive. Time management was key. Amanda catches up on schoolwork by making the most out of pockets of time throughout the day. “While waiting for the bus on my way home, I pull out my book and read,” she says. “I hardly watch television anymore. When I get home, I read or do research for my class.” It also helps that Amanda’s boss gives her the time she needs for her schooling. “I’ve worked out a schedule with my boss that lets me off early once a week for class,” Amanda explains. “I can also take some time off if I need to work on a term paper or study.”
Then there’s the age thing: most thirty-something students have classmates in their twenties. This was a bit of an adjustment for Amanda. “Half the time, I had no idea what they were talking about. The generational gap was so real,” she says. “But it was a great learning experience for me. It put me in touch with the younger me!” she laughs.
Amanda admits that going back to school in her 30s is not easy. The pressures of work and school sometimes get to her. “Sometimes I have to remind myself why I am doing this,” she says. “It can be challenging sometimes, I admit. But all the discovery and knowledge I make every day I’m in class are so rewarding and enriching.”
Amanda is now halfway through her coursework and continues to persevere. In about two years, she will have completed her master’s degree. Her next step? Get a teaching job. Is she thinking of moving up towards a PhD? Without missing a beat, she says, “Absolutely. And I can’t wait.”