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Going Back to School At 30: Why & Why Not

It’s no secret that a college degree is a key indicator of a successful career.

According to a 2017 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, workers with a college degree were far more likely to have a job than workers who lacked a college education.

The data proves that earning a college degree—even in your 30s—can have a significant impact on your career and your life.

graphic describes the United States employment rate, 2017 trend

Yet, the idea of going back to school as a 30-something can seem daunting. Life is a lot more complex than it was in your 20s. You might be wondering if it’s possible to balance the demands of being a student while simultaneously juggling a day job and family responsibilities. And you might even be questioning your ability to meet the demands of the coursework itself.

Although the idea of going back to finish your degree or earning a new degree can be overwhelming—and even a bit scary—it’s worth it in the long run.

The good news is that mature students (in their 30s and beyond) are actually perfectly positioned to earn their college degree. Let’s explore the reasons why going back to school at 30 might be your best idea yet.

4 Reasons Why Getting Your Degree at 30 is a Great Idea

On the fence about going back to college? Here are four reasons why you should pursue a degree after your 20s.

graphic describing 4 reasons why getting your degree at 30 is a great idea

1. You’re Ready to Refine Your Skills

One of the benefits of going back to school in your 30s is the on-the-job experience you’ve amassed over the past 12+ years. You’re at an advantage compared to students who have nothing on their résumé. Why? You’ve had time to learn what you enjoy doing, what you don’t like, what you’re good at, and where your greatest areas for improvement are.

You may want more thorough, in-depth knowledge of a subject. Or maybe there’s a particular skill missing from your professional toolbox. Whether it’s detailed focus of a general field or a very specific skill set, not having this knowledge can hold you back from growing professionally.

Or maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to learn (for the sake of learning). Many people choose to finish their studies for personal development alone. Always wanted to master a second language or learn more about financial planning? Go for it!

2. It’s Time for a Career Change

Speaking of on-the-job experience, another fabulous benefit of going back to school a bit later in life is your developed sense of direction. Oftentimes, students in their 20s are unsure about what they want to study. Or they receive a degree and later realize that working in that field is not what they thought it would be.

Good news! If you’re ready for a career change, you have an advantage over less mature college students due to your previous employment experiences. What you’ve learned on-the-job—your understanding of what you want (and don’t want)—means you’re more confident and focused on the goals ahead.

When it comes to paying for school, grants are among your best options. But do you know how to find them? Remove the guesswork by downloading this free guide.

3. You’ve Reached an Impasse in Earning Potential

Sometimes adults return back to a college degree program, not because they don’t enjoy their job, but because they aren’t earning the money they’d like to. Completing your bachelor’s degree can oftentimes directly result in a salary increase. According to a study conducted by The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, finishing your degree can get you on the track for a promotion, earning 46 percent more than those who have some college work, but no degree.

A college degree shows employers that you’re motivated, improving upon your writing and research skills, and that you’re driven to learn on (and off) the job. In turn, those who complete their studies may see:

  • a higher salary due to increased performance
  • better assignments and greater responsibilities
  • consideration for promotion or new opportunities within the company

4. You Want to Grow Your Professional Network

While it’s not typically the sole reason why people go back to college in their 30s, many find that furthering their education helps extend their professional network. Heading back to class can expose you to new up-and-comers, seasoned professionals (think professors, speakers from lectures, and industry specialists), and a group of like-minded college alumni.

Returning to college to seek mentorship and meet colleagues who are passionate about your industry of choice is a great way to organically grow your career. It also exposes you to new trends, publications, data and methods of learning and disseminating information. In turn, this work will be directly applicable to the ever-changing workforce, keeping you relevant and connected.

Four of the Worst Reasons to Go Back to School as a 30-Something

Maybe you’re not on the fence. Maybe you’re chomping at the bit to get back to school. Be sure you truly assess your goals and consider the impact that returning to a degree program will have on your life. To keep from wasting time and money, here are four of the wrong reasons to take the plunge back into higher education.

graphic describing 4 of the worst reasons to go back to school as a 30-something

1. You’re Bored

Although going back to school to complete your degree is usually a good idea, you’re not going to succeed if you think the process will be easy. The No. 1 reason students don’t complete college the first time around is their inability to manage commitments.

Make sure that you’re being real with yourself. Completing a degree is not easy—and it’s going to be even harder now that you’re working and have family commitments to juggle. Some online degree programs (like Franklin University’s) are designed to help adult-learners complete their education amidst the hectic responsibilities of life. Be prepared to manage your time wisely, ask for help, and use college resources (online portals, learning centers, study groups, time with an advisor) to their fullest potential. But don’t go back to school if you feel bored with life and see a degree as “just something to do.”

2. You Aren’t Sure What You Want to Do with Your Life

Many students fail to complete their degree in their first attempt because they aren’t sure what to major in. If you have already started and stopped school once before, starting back up again without a clear path is not a good move.

Prepare to re-enter school by first assessing your career goals—even if these aspirations surround learning more about something you’re passionate about. Having a clear direction will help you focus on the right school, program, and courses that will help you reach your established career-mapping goals.

3. You Think You’ll Automatically Land Your Dream Job

While there is a direct correlation between employability/earning potential and the highest degree you hold, don’t make the mistake of thinking that completing college means that your dream job will be handed to you.

From your first college class to an executive leadership position—advancing in any field demands a continued commitment and hard work. It doesn’t get easier. You just get more skilled and, in turn, the work becomes more fulfilling. Manage your expectations. Assess what realistic career growth in your field looks like. And never stop pushing yourself.

4. Since You’re Older, You Think You’ll Be A Perfect Student Oftentimes, adult students believe that their employment history and life experience mean that they will be (or should be) a perfect A+ student. This is far from true. If you think that you’ll achieve perfection in a degree program, then you need to reexamine things before enrolling.

Learning new information, growing your existing skills, and bettering yourself as a professional are much more important than getting an A. Sometimes you might work just as hard and earn a B. And that’s okay. What’s important is that you’re working hard on the goals of your program and the goals you’ve established in your career-mapping.

Ready? Set. Let’s Do This!

Now that you know all the right (and wrong) reasons to go back and get your degree at 30, here are a few tips to get you started on re-enrollment.

graphic describing getting started: tips on going back to college

In the end, going back to school is an investment in you and your future. The hard work, financial commitment and diligence are worth the risk. Just be sure to find a school that fits your needs as an adult-learner. Be prepared to work hard. Take advantage of the help and resources available to you.

And don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself. If you can follow these guidelines, then you’re more than likely to succeed.

Free Guide:
Where to Find Free Money to go Back to School
Learn how to get grants to cut college costs.