adult college students in class

Not Too Young, Not Too Old

The magic age for getting a degree doesn't actually exist. However, students who consider themselves non-traditional are concerned about how their age will affect their experience in the classroom. Let's break down this make-believe age barrier: 

Imagine the fictional college freshman, a fresh-faced 18- or 19-year-old, walking through a historic, bricked campus while the changing red leaves softly fall from the stately trees overhead. The image is beautiful and certainly will be found at the main Columbia campus and elsewhere across the nation each fall, but it only represents 3.4 percent of the whole student body.

 graph showing average student age  

While many evening and online students may consider themselves "non-traditional" students, the numbers show that the actual Columbia College tradition is about them. The majority of students, 56 percent, were between 30-65 years old in 2015. Our students are more likely to find a classmate to have much more life experience than a student who may still daydream about last spring's prom. In fact, the student learning alongside you is 2.5 times more likely to be in their early thirties than around 20. It's also likely you'll have more than one classmate whose children are in high school, or perhaps has a grandbaby or two. 

The mix of ages in a learning community enriches the whole class with both mature and fresh perspectives. Many adult students share the common concerns about using technology, or about getting the hang of school after being out of classrooms for a long time. The resources and technology used in our classes are designed to be user-friendly for all students; no higher education experience required to start. 

It's no fairy tale going to college at any age. Earning a degree is hard work. But as an adult, older students have experience and responsibilities that can be resources and excellent motivation. You may have to use your imagination and get creative to fit school around your full and busy life, but the happy ending of graduation is attainable for any age of student. 

Graph provided by Columbia College

Related content:

Embracing the Unknown: An Adult Student's Perspective

Rebuilding Your Confidence as an Adult Student

Education Has No Age Limit

Higher Education, Columbia College

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photo of Maria Haynie