Never Too Old to be a Student

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure to speak with many prospective applicants to the MSW program at UNC. Some really great questions were asked (and answered) and if you have an opportunity to attend an information session at UNC School of Social Work, I definitely encourage you to do that. I wanted to go in-depth with a little bit of reflection on one of the questions that was asked that afternoon and that I had when I was considering applying back in the winter of 2011/2012.

Question: What if I have been out of school for a little while, will it be hard to adjust to being a graduate student? Will I fit in as an older adult?

The first answer is that it depends. Like many of my peers in my cohort, I had been out of school for several years–five to be exact. I was worried about adjusting to classes and homework and reading and papers. However, I was able to adjust back to the student role, and if I could, you can as well. In many ways, our schedule is similar to that of a traditional 40-hour employee, with class during the 9-5 time a few days a week and field hours at an internship site the other week days. Of course, in the evenings there is reading to do, there are papers to write, and there is life to live. But ultimately I found that having worked full-time prepared me to balance my time and maintain a consistent schedule and I feel that that has been a strength for me as a graduate student at the UNC School of Social Work.

The second answer is an enthusiastic yes! In my cohort, the average age of enrolling students was around 29. There are many students who are younger and more recently graduated from college, plenty of students who worked full-time for several years like I did before finding themselves in graduate school, and many more students who have decided to make a career change after decades in another profession. And in the classroom setting, everyone’s experience is valued and the diversity of age and life experiences contributes to the learning environment.

So if you’re wondering, like I was, like many other prospective applicants are, about whether or not you can be a student again after many years outside of the classroom, rest assured, the transition can be made.

And finally, on an unrelated note, because tomorrow night is the Carolina v. Duke game, and I have a student ticket, and one is never too old to get rowdy and loud and support their school, GO HEELS!


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