Back to School After 40


Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” You don’t have to be a great inventor to believe this. If you’ve lived long enough you know the difference that knowledge makes in your personal and professional life. 

After 40, you may feel rich in experience and the valuable knowledge that has come with it. Many younger adults have already had a rich life as well, diverse in experience and sometimes hardship as well. This doesn’t mean you are rich in purpose, career fulfillment, or material wealth though. 

Many of us had one plan for our lives and our education and things just didn’t land where we thought they would. Sometimes we changed our minds or we just changed our course. Maybe we wanted to change directions. Maybe we had to change directions. 

One day you find yourself standing at a crossroads. Which way do I turn? Do I stay on this well-worn path I’m on. Or maybe that path isn’t even there anymore and it has dissolved behind you through relocation, divorce, or unemployment. What if both the paths before you are new and unfamiliar. 

If you are brave enough to believe in new beginnings than the path you choose may be higher education. No one is too old to become a college student all over again or for the first time. Higher education is a lifelong endeavor, not one reserved exclusively for fresh-faced high school graduates. 

A college certificate or diploma means even more to some older students. You often have made more sacrifices to be at school later in life because your home and work commitments are more established vs. a twenty-something student. Perhaps you had to wait years to get your chance to even go back to school. What comes easy isn’t valued as much as what was hard-won. 

Our brains and bodies might not be as fit when are older as well. The schedule and the schoolwork itself might seem a bit more of a struggle. Here’s what makes the difference, though – you have more depth of character and maturity with age. You have overcome in your life again and again with time. Returning to college and maybe feeling vulnerable or worrying if you can fit in or keep up or if it’s even the right choice are a small price to pay for the return. As an older student, you know that good things take time and might be harder than you imagined. You also know that it’s worth it to bet on yourself, to choose a new dream, and to sacrifice in the short-term for longer-term rewards. 

I have worked at Ashton College as an Admissions Advisor and some of the people I’ve been most moved by are older adults who are calling for advice and assistance in applying for one of our programs. One of our applicants for the Immigration Consultant Diploma Program was in her fifties and she had worked as an Administrative Assistant for many years in a law firm. 

Rose came to Canada from Hong Kong decades ago and she told me with tears in her eyes that she wanted to bring her sister here. That was her dream and her plan from the beginning – open her own business and be able to help her sister immigrate here. They could work side by side and help other people to come to Canada. She wasn’t sure she would be accepted into our program, but she was underestimating herself and when her English Proficiency scores came back they were really high. 

She called me when she got her loan approved and got into our program. I cried a little too because I could hear how much it meant to her. Rose enrolled in our online program so that she could keep working at the law firm. She will have to put in some long hours, but I expect she will be one of our top graduates. Rose is that kind of person. She works hard and she has a purpose and a goal. It doesn’t matter that she’s just starting her diploma now because she isn’t just starting at all. She has been preparing for this for a lifetime. 

Don’t shy away from new education and new beginnings later in life because it’s never too late for a happy ending.