Going back to school in your 40's may be difficult, and it might possibly entail making some sacrifices, but, as with every instance of returning to the halls of academia, it is certainly never a bad idea. That having been said, however, it is imperative to understand the challenges that will lie ahead. For if you can anticipate them, then they will likely prove to be less daunting and cumbersome when they actually arrive.
The Parent Trap
With the average age of American parents increasing, and the demands placed on their children ever more varied and time-consuming, the nature of parenting is undergoing what can only be described as a paradigm shift. For as children engage in activities that require ever more devotion and time from the entire family, their activities affect the dynamic of the parents' lives, too. Gone are the days of the extent of childhood activities being limited to a quick two-hour baseball game for the local Little League. Today's youth engage in a variety of activities ranging from hockey to language courses to competitive spelling bees that necessitate significant travel and a time commitment that rivals that required by the full time jobs held down by adults.
As a result, going back to school at this time of life is perhaps more difficult than at any other. After all, if you want to make the most of your education, then you have to be able to devote as much time to it as it requires and deserves.
Which is not to say that you should not consider furthering your education at this time of life. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is simply that the importance of understanding the ramifications and requirements of it are crucial.
And Now, The Good News
Some young parents, however, may find this the perfect time to go back to school. After all, children learn best by example. Good study habits are instilled at an early age. So if Mom or Dad is studying and doing homework every night, whether it's for an accredited online degree or a physical school, an in situ example of how to succeed at academics is being provided.
And the advantages go beyond that. If many Americans these days are having children when they are in their early 30's, then by the time the parents reach their 40's, the children are in middle or high school. And with all the distractions out there that detract from families spending quality time together, parents who are students may find that education is an entirely new and unexpected arena in which to connect with their children. In houses where both parents and kids are in school, it is not unheard of for quality family time to take place around the kitchen table while both parties do their homework.
Finally, there is the issue of the material being covered in the parents' classes. If it is a subject that's similar to one that the child takes in school, it is possible for the child to actually be able to help the parent with the work at hand. By doing so, the child is likely to gain a real sense of accomplishment and self-worth. And if the work deals with a subject that is only likely to be encountered in college or beyond, then the child will be exposed to it early on, thereby paving the way for some sense of familiarity with the subject years before it is encountered at the college level.
Unfortunately, money always seems to get in the way. And although this sad fact may at times seem particularly annoying and deserving of antipathy, it must not be ignored. Going back to school is, after all, not necessarily cheap. So before you decide to become a student, it is imperative that you take a close look at your financial situation. Because the question now is not simply whether you can afford it; it is, rather, whether you can afford it and still have enough money to help fund your child's eventual college education. For though loans are always available, you will be doing your children a huge favor by minimizing the debt they graduate with.
There are, however, all kinds of scholarships and organizations out there to help defray some of the costs of your continued education. Research them. Find them. The money is available for those who take the time to look. Some of it comes from scholarships with particular affiliations: religious, ethnic, national, etc. And some of them are for adult students who have scored particularly well on standardized tests. Need-based money is also available. It is well worth your time to look into these options.
Also, your place of employment may have money available for continued education, especially if your proposed course of study will facilitate greater productivity or job performance on your part. Many businesses, for example, are more than happy to fund an MBA for an employee who agrees to spend a specific number of years at that company after the completion of the degree. They consider it an investment. So should you. Seek out the money that's available. You'll likely be shocked to discover how many options you actually have.
So though going back to school in your 40's may be a bit more difficult or complicated than at any other time in life, it is still worth all the sacrifices you'll likely have to make. Just make sure you understand them all before you begin.
And who knows? You might just be one of those people who flourishes at school after having been away from it for so long. The sky is the limit; give yourself the chance to soar.
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