When you’ve gained years of work experience, you might begin thinking about advancing your career or switching to a new career path. This typically means going back to college as an adult learner in order to earn a different or more advanced college degree or certificate. What can you expect as an adult student? Understanding the challenges you might face when you go back to school can help you prepare for the experience. Keep the following in mind about being an older student.

Returning to College as an Older Student

If you decide to go back to school as an older student, you won’t be alone. More and more adults are choosing to return to college. With flexible degree programs, online courses, and other options available, going back to college is becoming more feasible for those who have been working for years. As an older college student, you’ll have the benefit of real-world experience and skills that you can apply to learning. If you’re returning to school to finish a degree program, you’ll also have an idea of what to expect.

5 Reasons to Go Back to School

Why do older students return to college? These are some of the top reasons that adults go back to school.

1. Staying Competitive at Work

Depending on your current job, you might face competition from younger adults who have recently graduated. In order to stay competitive at work, you might choose to earn an advanced degree, take continuing education credits, or earn certifications in your field. Doing so helps you sharpen your skills while also developing new ones.

2. Advancing Your Career

You might decide to attend college in order to advance your career. Earning an advanced degree means you’ll be gaining more in-depth knowledge and learning new skills. Depending on your career goals, advancing your career might involve aiming for a leadership position, such as in health care management.

3. Building a New Career

As you get older, you might think about switching careers. Whether you’re looking for a change from your current career or have an interest in a different career path, returning to school allows you to pursue this change. Depending on the career you’re interested in, you might learn a wide range of new skills when you go back to school.

4. Completing a Degree Program

If you have prior learning in a degree program but didn’t finish, going back to college gives you a chance to earn your degree. Returning to school as an older student to finish a degree program means you might have college credit that can be applied toward it. This can help shorten the amount of time it takes to earn your degree.

5. Plan for Your Retirement Years

Going back to school as an older adult means you can work on advancing your career to put more savings toward retirement. If you’re going to be working instead of retiring, earning a degree or certificate can open new career opportunities to explore. This can help you avoid feeling stuck in your current career as you get older.

Overcoming Challenges

Although older students have certain advantages, there are also some difficulties you might experience. Knowing more about these challenges ahead of time can help you prepare to meet them. These are some of the common challenges you might face as an adult returning to college.

Time Management

Depending on your situation, you might not be in a position to leave your current job in order to go back to school. This means you’ll be juggling work, school, and personal responsibilities, such as taking care of a family. Having good time management skills can make it easier for you to balance all of these responsibilities. Letting your supervisor know that you’re going back to college can also be helpful, since they might be able to adjust your schedule as needed or help in other ways.


Keeping track of work and school tasks, as well as personal appointments and other responsibilities, can be difficult when you go back to college. Being organized can make this much less stressful. Try using apps and other tools to keep track of upcoming due dates for work projects, school projects and assignments, exams, and other tasks. Set up an area in your home for school, so you can keep all of your school supplies and notes organized and easy to access when you need them.

Financial Aid

Heading back to school as an adult means you’ll need to find a way to pay for your education. If you don’t have the money to cover these costs up front, financial aid is available for those who qualify. As a working adult, you can ask your company if they offer programs that cover the cost of a continuing education of a degree or certificate program that helps you advance your career. Other options to explore include grants and scholarships offered by colleges, businesses, or your local or state government. Student loans can also help cover the cost of tuition, but you’ll need to pay these back after graduating. You can start exploring your options by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.


Going back to college to advance your career or build a new career isn’t easy, although it can be highly rewarding. During your time at school, you might feel overwhelmed or stressed, especially when you first start or around exam times. Having emotional and practical support can ease this transition and help you get through tough times. Look into the student resources that are available at the school you end up going to, such as counseling or study groups. You might also turn to family and friends for support, such as asking family members to pitch in more at home or talking to a friend about what you’re going through.

Finding a School

When you start exploring options for college, look for schools that offer the degree or certificate program you’re interested in. If you need a flexible schedule, focus on schools that have online programs or blended programs with both online and on-campus classes. For schools that offer on-campus classes, look for programs with evening classes available. Other factors to consider when choosing a school include financial aid options, accelerated programs, stackable programs, and student resources. Accelerated programs are designed to allow you to complete your degree or certificate program in a shorter amount of time.

Start Your Journey at CHCP

When you’re ready to learn more about advancing your healthcare career or building a new one, contact The College of Health Care Professions. At CHCP, we offer several degree and certificate programs for healthcare careers, including LVN to ADN nursing, medical billing and coding, dental assisting, cardiac sonography, health care management, medical assisting, and much more. Many of our programs are available fully online for greater flexibility. We also offer programs at our campuses in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, McAllen, and San Antonio.