Deciding to go to college as an older adult is a significant consideration for people who are further along in life. Unlike younger college students, older adults have professional, financial and family concerns that come along with a full class schedule.
Veterans can catch a significant break with their GI Bill benefits, especially when it comes to tuition, fees and textbooks. Some may still need to cover the costs of child care, transportation and more. Still, there are a lot of reasons to go back to school; career advancement, higher incomes and even the potential for starting your own business are all good reasons.
For those older vets who decide to go back to school after leaving the military, here are a few important things to know.
1. You Likely Won't Be the Only Adult in the Room.
A lot of older people are going back to school, for any number of reasons. According to the American Council on Education, 60% of undergraduate students in the United States are non-traditional students, performing the same work-school-family balancing act you might be doing.
These students are typically 25 years old or more, they have families and work full time while going to class. Many of them also have military connections. More and more schools are catering to these kinds of students, because they are a consistently growing population in college.
2. Earnings Generally Increase with More Education.
College is not for everyone. Many people prefer vocations that don't necessarily require a degree. This includes skilled trades, promotions to higher titles based on experience and self-employed workers. There are many avenues, especially for veterans, to earn a good salary.
A 2021 Georgetown University study found that in general, educated individuals tend to make more money over the course of their lifetime. Adults with a bachelor's degree made $2.8 million throughout their careers while those with a high school diploma earned $1.6 million.
Those who want to find a career that pays well while learning about its educational requirements can use Monster.com's salary comparison tool to find the top paying jobs for any college major.
3. There Are Child Care Assistance Options Available for Students.
Child care is a major problem for everyone in America. Older veterans with children who are thinking of leaving the military likely already know how hard it can be to find affordable, dependable child care.
Fortunately, many child care providers offer military and student discounts. Some employers have child care plans or offer Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts to their employees. The Department of Health and Human Services hosts a website for parents to find available state and local resources to help find dependent care at ChildCare.gov.
4. Being Older Comes with Advantages, Too.
If the thought of going back to class seems a little intimidating, remember that age also comes with a lot of experience. Older adults, especially vets, have been juggling responsibilities for years. This means likely mastering key life skills, like planning, budgeting and focus. This won't be like any previous experience one might have had in academia.
Most importantly, schools recognize the growing population of adult learners and are taking steps to cater to and attract more of those. Some are offering child care, flexible learning options, expanded hours and online classes.
Many institutions offer special study areas, meeting places and even entire classes just for veterans returning to school life after service. Be sure to check out what a school might offer in this area; it might surprise you.
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