by Guillermo DiMaria for StudentAdvisor.com
Julia Child didn’t learn to cook until she was 40, and she was 50 when she became a household name. Although he was told he was too old, opera singer Andrea Bocelli didn’t begin singing professionally until he was 34. And while Laura Ingalls Wilder will always be considered the young girl in her popular “Little House” books, she did not write them until she was in her 60s.
If you’re in your 30s, or older, and think you’re too old to go back to school, think again. Now is the best time to begin living your dream. Your reason for wanting to return to the classroom—actual or virtual—may not be the same as anyone else’s, but it’s equally valuable.
[Try some free courses before you commit.]
Forbes reports that the average worker stays in a job for a little more than four years before finding something new. You may be tired of the company you work for, feel underappreciated or simply need more of a challenge. Whatever your reason for moving on, furthering your education can open up your options.
Accomplish a Goal
Perhaps you started school when you were younger but gave it up for more pressing matters, or you just weren’t ready for it the first time around. Going back to school simply for the sense of accomplishment it will bring is a perfectly legitimate reason to enroll.
[Need advice on getting back into the swing of things? Read 5 Tips for Adult Students Returning to College.]
Like many people, you may be performing a job but not gaining your due recognition, because you’re not “officially” an expert. Having a degree adds credibility to your work. Say you do web design, but you never got your web design degree online. There is always the fear that the best assignments will go to the person who holds a degree. A degree announces to the world that you have worked toward becoming an expert in your field.
[Want to get more experience with online courses? Check out LearningAdvisor!]
While it may seem unjust, corporations often use a degree as a base standard when it comes time for promotions. How many times have you seen ads that list a particular degree as a basic requirement? It is a company’s way of allowing the educated to rise to the top.
Lead by Example
If you have children in your life, you may wish to illustrate the importance of a good education. A study by the National Institutes of Health indicates that parents’ educational level when their child is 8 years old helps predict that child’s educational and occupational success 40 years later. Although your education cannot guarantee that your child is going to be wildly successful, it is the blueprint from which he bases his own decisions.
Fine-Tune Your Brain
Scientific American breaks down how the learning process actually fine tunes your brain. According to the magazine, learning takes place at synapses, those junctions between neurons where information is relayed. When you learn something new and information is relayed, those brain cells fire together. For example, imagine you are introduced to a new co-worker with long red hair named Nancy. Your brain forms an association between your visual image of this new co-worker and her name by encoding different groups of neurons. Each time you see Nancy, those sets of neurons from various parts of your brain fire simultaneously, strengthening the synaptic pathway connecting them.
While that is a simplistic example of how learning works, each new piece of information you learn in school is like mental calisthenics. Your brain truly does become stronger.
Making it Happen
Options for gaining an education have changed through the years. You don’t have to give up your full-time job and take on-campus classes in order to earn your degree. Online, evening and even learning abroad programs have been custom-built to match your lifestyle and learning style. The trick is to look through your options until your find the program that best fits your goals.
[There’s a scholarship for you. See these 26 Scholarships to Put Adults Back in College.]
Guillermo DiMaria is an Italian transplant who moved to the United States to study finance and sustainability. He hopes to use this knowledge someday to open the best restaurant the West Coast has ever seen.