Are you thinking about going back to school, but think you’re too old? Many people over 30, 40, 50 or more, see age as an obstacle to continuing their educations, but I’m here to prove that you’re never too old for school.

As a 55-year-old woman with a gap of over 35 years since I had been in any kind of classroom setting, I was a bit anxious about what I would be facing. And even though it was specifically an Adult Education program, I was the oldest person in the class by about 20 years!

But surprisingly, I found spending 6 to eight hours a day in the classroom, with at least 2 hours of homework each night not too bad – in fact, I often stayed late to finish something in the computer lab before I went home. Mind you, I had support from my husband and daughter – and we were no strangers to the take-out menus of the local eateries!

This was an intensive, full-time, 13-month course in Web Technology, and at first, I really thought my head would explode! There were a lot of things that the professors assumed we knew, and since many of the profs were younger than some of the people in the class, I guess it was understandable, if frustrating.

The HTML and CSS sections were easy for me – I’d been hand-coding websites for years. But when we got to PHP I was near tears by the second day. Functions? When I was in high school we had algebra and geometry – calculus was not on the curriculum! I could not understand where the prof was getting the variables from. The only experience I had with variables was solving for X in a set equation. In exasperation, I finally asked “Where are you getting these variables from? Are you just making them up as you go?” To which the Prof replied “Of course!” and I had an enormous AHA! moment.

That moment went beyond just understanding the way the code was structured. It made me understand that there was a new structure to the learning experience itself.  I realized that the way I was learning was far removed from the classrooms of my youth.

This was both terrifying and amazingly freeing.

I started to try to better understand the differences between learning as a child and learning as an adult.

I went looking for a clearer explanation/comparison of the two types of learning, and I found this interesting infographic. 

The obvious difference in my own experience was one of motivation – everything else stemmed from there. I wanted to learn what was being taught, I had chosen to be there. 

My experience as a child and teen, in the public school system, was that I had to be there whether I wanted to or not, and the teachers were constrained to a curriculum that led inevitably to an exam and a passing or failing grade.

In my Adult Education classes, the goal was subtly different; comprehension of the subject matter was more important than memorization of facts and formulas. 

The other enormous difference was in my self-confidence. The uncertainty and insecurity of my high school days were far behind me. I was able to ask questions in class, and to answer (when I knew the answer!). And when I got the answer wrong, I learned from it, instead of being embarrassed.

 

My return to College for that intensive program was back in 2009. Since then, I go back every semester for a class or two – in the business of computers, code, and the Internet, with new developments every day, you can’t afford to fall behind!

Have you had an experience with going back to school? Tell me about it in the comments!