The 51-year-old college freshman

I decided to go back to college last fall at the age of fifty-one after my youngest child graduated from high school. I had said for years that I was going to go back to school and now it was time to put my time and money where my mouth was.

Why I wanted to go back to college

I have several reasons for going back to school at the time when most people my age are planning for retirement. The first reason is simply to finish what I started. I had first attended college in the spring of 1982 but left school after two semesters. The second reason is that I have a lot of work life ahead of me and I want to be as employable as possible for as long as possible. The third reason is that in this day and age of people living longer, fifty is not as “old” as it used to be. I have time to get a bachelor’s degree and make good use of it.

The challenges

Has it been challenging returning to school after more than thirty years? Definitely! My previous college credits were not accepted by my new school, so I had to take the same assessment tests as the students who had just finished high school, but without much notice that I would have to do so. I passed three of the four sections with flying colors and missed passing the math by one point! I am currently studying to retake the math portion of the exam so that I do not have to take developmental math.

Another challenge in the pursuit of my education is that my grandson came to live with us unexpectedly when he was eighteen months old in April 2014. So, in addition to being a college student in my fifties, I am also raising a young child. Thankfully, my husband and I split the child care duties and it is getting easier as my grandson gets older. I quickly realized that nap times and early bedtimes were things to be treasured and used productively!

The worries

Was I nervous about returning to school? I sure was. I worried that I would  not be able to keep up with the work load and that my fellow students would think it was weird to have a person their parents’ age sitting next to them in class. I am happy to report that I ended my first semester of school with a 4.0 grade point average. As for the other students, regardless of our ages, we are all just students trying to do our best in school. Having to do the same assignments levels the playing field quite a bit. I did have to teach myself to not to refer to my fellow students as “kids.”

The successes

One factor that has made my return to school easier, in my opinion, is that I am self-employed. I work for a variety of on-site and remote clients doing administrative and personal assistant tasks. This allows me maximum control over my schedule.

So, if you are thinking of going back to school as a non-traditional student, I encourage you to go for it. Your years of working, raising a family, and  just experiencing life will all contribute to help you do well in the academic arena, and give you confidence in everything you do afterwards.


Holly 2014

About the author:  Holly Williams Urbach lives in sunny central Texas where she is attending college part-time, working part-time, and writing whenever time allows. She is a closet nerd, especially where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is concerned, and is passionate about health and wellness, with the exception of a lifelong relationship with Reese’s cups.



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