Returning to College as a Retiree

It's never too late to go back to school and start a new career!

Senior-with-laptop-Thomas-Northcut-Photodisc-Getty-Images-75627287.jpg
Thomas Northcut - Photodisc - Getty Images 75627287

I spent a majority of my adult life as a critical care nurse working late nights, responding to life-threatening problems, and caring for critically ill patients and their families. Though it was challenging at times, my career as a nurse always kept me on my toes, enabled me to contribute to my local community, and inspired me to live my life to the fullest.
 
My life recently changed after breaking my hip and I was no longer capable of providing the same level of care to my patients so I left my job as a nurse.

After a short period of time at home I was quickly ready for my next challenge. At 64, I decided to go back to school at Arizona State University Online in order to complete a new degree. I’m not able to travel back and forth to a college campus so I chose an online program that was reputable and offered online instructors that also teach in traditional classrooms at ASU.
 
As a retiree, the college world seemed both foreign and intimidating, but I realized it’s exactly what I needed to stay mentally active. Fortunately, ASU Online offers dedicated online coaches and career advisors who can assist senior citizens with everything from registration and course selection to general guidance in order to make the transition seem less daunting.
 
Thus far, it has been an incredible opportunity for me to explore a new-found passion in a completely different career path. Nursing consumed my life for so long that I had little time to even consider other passions.

I’m now pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology and was able to secure a job working as an assistant to a lawyer that specializes in elderly abuse. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experience, and I’m even considering going to law school once I’ve completed my degree so I can further support the local elderly community.


 
The fact is that it’s never too late to go back to school in order to explore a new hobby, pursue a new career path, or finally complete the college degree that you never got around to when life got in the way.  An online education has enabled me to continue interacting with like-minded adults and giving back to the community through a new career that fits my current lifestyle and physical capabilities.
 
Succeeding in Online Education as a Senior Citizen
 
The flexibility of online education is critical for senior citizens, particularly for homebound seniors or those who live in remote areas. It’s important to make the most of your online experience by regularly engaging with your professors and peers and taking advantage of all communication channels. This includes live video feeds of lectures, live discussion boards, online tutoring, and Skype sessions.
 
Despite what many seniors believe, online classes can offer a human element with two-way communication that is both visual and auditory. You’re not just limited to email interaction. For example, the online discussion boards and chat rooms available through ASU Online have enabled me to discuss the course content and ask questions in real-time with my professors, student peers, and teacher assistants.

No matter the age difference, you’ll likely find that other students in your courses are facing the same challenges and may be able to guide you in the right direction to find the resources you need.
 
Additionally, in case you have any technical difficulties with your online assignments or the discussion boards, you should always be prepared with the contact information to tech support. Fortunately, ASU Online has tech support available by phone or live chat 24/7 so this has been an extremely helpful resource for me.
 
In my experience, I’ve found that online programs help level the playing field for seniors. Your professors aren’t concerned about your age, no matter if you’re 20, 80, or somewhere in between. Ultimately, they want you to succeed and they appreciate it when you reach out to them to pick their brain, discuss course content, and ask additional questions.


 
The traditional college experience has significantly transformed since we were last in school, but there’s absolutely no reason for seniors and retirees to feel as if completing a new degree is unrealistic. If you embrace new course technology and regularly engage with your online professors and peers, you’re more likely to succeed and finally get the degree you need to explore a new passion, hobby, or career.