College After Age 40 is Good For Wellness

Am I Too Old For University or College?

Students who go back to college after age 25 often worry about not fitting in or being “too old”, but what about going to college after age 40? I was surprised to find how many positive and inspiring stories there are about people who get a college or university degree after age 40 or 50. Among these stories is one about a student who started her BA in International Studies at age 55, maintained a 4.0 GPA, was on the Dean’s list, and received a national scholarship after years of being excluded from jobs because she had no degree.

A huge part of studying over age 40 is learning how to recover from failure and make mental adjustments to one’s approach. I had always felt that university only rewards people who follow the rules. I preferred to learn by “doing” (than by studying), and I found that this was the largest hurdle to overcome. In the 1970s I had left my second year university Russian language and literature studies to learn the language first-hand by travelling to the Soviet Union and then living there for an extended period of time. I believed that learning a language by immersing oneself in a foreign culture was much more interesting than sitting in a classroom and learning the grammar.  But it turned out that this approach was not beneficial when it came to getting a good job.

I ended up switching my field of study to digital design. After upgrading in multimedia and web design to further my career and learning a lot about digital marketing on the job over the years, I still found that I was being screened out in the application process for the better jobs because I didn’t have a BA.  So in my 40s I returned to evening study at the University of Toronto to finish my BA.

Overcoming Failures is a Positive Benefit of Going Back to School

My first return to academia in 2005 was in an evening French course at the University of Toronto that I dropped after dismally failing the first test. Time to regroup, I thought. So I re-enrolled in a Canadian Short Story course taught by Professor Sarah Caskey, was very inspired by her encouragement, and did well in the course. Successful courses in European history and Russian language followed. Now I’m on a dual track at university, chipping away at my BA completion through evening literature courses at University of Toronto and pursuing a Digital Marketing Management Certificate in evenings through University of Toronto Continuing Studies. 

Cookie-Cutter Approach to Education Doesn't Always Produce the Best Leaders

I still maintain that following a cookie-cutter approach to education will guarantee you a safe life and not necessarily encourage you to become a progressive, fair-minded leader who empowers others.  Some of the other hidden benefits to returning to university or college over age 40 are:
  • The hopefulness and positive energy of students with their whole careers ahead of them is contageous
  • What you are learning is valuable for your own well-being and knowledge as well as for improving your job prospects
  • You stay current by getting in tune with a younger mindset
  • You avoid the pitfalls of just putting in time at a job to pay the bills
  • If you have a bad day at work, you can switch your focus to your studies and new career prospects
  • Your frame of mind leans towards concepts and ideas, keeping you intellectually stimulated
  • You become more open to different ways of doing things as your circle becomes broadened by people outside your usual sphere


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