In this essay I am going to explain and analyze the benefits and drawbacks of returning to education as an adult. I propose that there are more positives than negatives. Starting with the negatives, listed in order of significance: stress time, social differences in thinking (due to age, maturity, etc.), and finances. The positives (also listed in order of significance) include: more life experience, employment outlook and skin in the game.
Beginning with the dilemma of stress and juggling responsibilities. I think this is largely dependent on the age and circumstance of the individual. For example, people who are 30 are much more likely to be in a serious relationship, have animals, and finally, they may have a child to also consider. If a mature student does not have the necessary time management skills under their belt, it can limit their potential. It can have a significant effect on someone, because the stress of having to balance those responsibilities can cause an increase in cortisol and adrenergic signaling, which subsequently cause anxiety.
One of the biggest obstacles adult learners face is the combination of self-doubt about their own ability to cope with the demands of their education and the issue of ‘fitting in’ with their younger counterparts. Adults often feel like they should have everything figured out due to their age. However, the idea of returning to learning as an adult can raise questions like, ‘Will I actually be able to manage?’, or ‘Am I smart enough?’. These can lead to the unpleasant experience of imposter syndrome. Additionally, adult students may feel that the difference in age and development will lead to problems when it comes time to make friends.
Moving on to the subject of finances. Because older students are less likely to get funding than their younger peers, it often can be a problem. A report by MillionPlus showed that in 2012 after university tuition fees were raised, the number mature students dropped by 20%. This highlights the impact that finances have on adult students and the decision to return to learning.
Now, on to the advantages of returning to learning as an adult. Firstly, going back into education as an adult means that you bring years of life experience and job experience to the table. This comes into the picture when deciding what degree or course you want to do. Most people don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their life when they’re 18 years old, so returning the learning as an adult, once you’ve had the time to really examine where your passion lies, it can help guide your career path.
Next, is employment/career outcomes. According to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), on average, those with a bachelor’s degree made $32,000 more than people with a high-school diploma. Furthermore, people with a master’s degree make an additional $12,000 per year than those with a bachelor’s, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Finally, we need to factor in that adult students will often have much more ‘skin in the game’ than younger students. This is because they may have additional responsibilities, like children or a job to hold down, all whilst they pursue a degree. What this means, is that unlike a young student who has their education bankrolled by their parents, for example, an adult student has the added pressure of a child or a spouse to consider. And so, they are much less likely to willingly drop out, or to become lazy and lose focus. Meaning that they have the drive to finish the degree.
Overall, I’m of the opinion that the positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to returning to learning as an adult. Adult students are more likely to have a clear path defined for reaching their goal, and they’re more likely to commit fully and grab the opportunity to complete their degree by the horns. If they can manage to overcome the few obstacles that can make returning to education as an adult challenging, they have a wonderful chance to utilize their life experience and reach their goals.