You Can Do College

“I’m afraid of being the oldest student in the class”

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

I have been talking to numerous students around the country, and with non-traditional students (NTS), this fear ranks right up there as a top reason they have procrastinated returning to school. Worse yet, what if they are older than the professor?

However, upon enrolling in and attending that first class, it does not take long before this fear evaporates. They discover the advantages (yes, advantages) of being the oldest in the class.

First, they have an understanding of the “big picture.” Most NTS know why they have decided to go to college. Over and over again, NTS have told me that their education can never be taken away from them. Or, they want to be a good role model for their children. Because of these motivations, they more easily adapt to changing course material. Their minds are open. Also, they get the interrelationship of the courses, often intuitively applying material from one course to the next. Younger students have a tendency to jettison the course material after the final exam.

Second, when it comes to group projects, they have found that the “kids” want them on their team! Just when they thought they would be either ignored or stared at by their classmates, they discover that they are the first ones chosen! Why? Because the 18-24 year-olds know that the NTS “gets it.” In addition, the younger students assume that the older students are natural leaders.

Third, it is great to converse with your professors. Many of them remember the same Presidents, so it is nice to have some shared experiences!

The bottom line is, the “fear of being the oldest” is short-lived. Use it to your advantage!