Going back to college


Diamond Member
Oct 19, 2001
It's been nearly 19 years since I gave up on college to pursue a career. Lately, I've been toying with the idea of going back and finishing my degree, but not sure how realistic that is. Most of the people that I work with have at least an under grad, if not some type of masters. Even my wife has a masters plus a few specialist degrees.

Has anyone in their early 40's gone back and what was is like? How did you handle a career, kids and everything else that comes with being an adult while taking classes?
May 24, 2003
The real question to ask yourself is will it give you any kind of advantage career wise? If you're happy with the job you have and make enough to pay the bills it does not make much sense to go back. It's going to cost quite a lot as it means you won't have any money coming in for a few years, unless you can take the course via correspondence or something.
Jun 19, 2004
Older returning students have a huge advantage academically over high school grads. If going back would help career wise, do it!


Super Moderator
Super Moderator
Jun 20, 2006
I haven't done it but a lot of my coworkers have. Personally I am very glad that I don't have school on top of work but I don't feel like lack of a certain degree has held me back. Just make sure it works for you (My wife has an additional associates and master's to my bachelors but I make almost 2x what she does). I'd approach it with a little caution given tuition rates but a lot of people do like seeing a piece of paper with a certain phrase on it so...


Diamond Member
Mar 31, 2003
Does your work have any kind of tuition reimbursement?

I graduated from high school in 87 and got a job in corporate america. I started taking community college classes in 88 but didn't get serious until 2001. Got an Associates in 2003, Bachelor's around 2008 and Masters in 2013 and work paid for nearly all of it.
Jul 12, 2006
You'll be in much better shape because you are going back with purpose, and a complete intolerance for the bullshit that is a large distraction for college (though, at that normal age, the distractions are completely awesome, appropriate, and quite essential for development, of course)

Older students are always the best students, and as long as you go in with a clear goal and purpose, and the understanding that the professors are there to help you learn the subject and succeed, and not some asinine assumption that they are trying to fill you with poison ideas because of some completely unexplainable reason, then you will do very well. You've already got time management down at this point in you life, especially with kids and a career figured out, so after a bit of adjustment you'll figure it out pretty quickly.


Diamond Member
Sep 12, 2012
One life my friend.

If you'd be happier going back to college than do it. I went back in my early 30s.


Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
Has anyone in their early 40's gone back and what was is like? How did you handle a career, kids and everything else that comes with being an adult while taking classes?
I take classes here & there.

The three tips I'd give you are:

1. Make sure you understand why you are taking classes, i.e. to get a better job or to gain knowledge or whatever.

2. Make sure you are realistic about your schedule, as it's a time commitment to take classes, commute, study, and juggle everything else in your life, not to mention a financial investment for classes, books, and supplies.

3. Make sure that you have an auditable system for studying.

I developed a really good system for dealing with school a number of years ago, complete with various procedures for things like writing essays, doing art projects, studying textbooks, and so on; I wish I had had it when I was younger! For me, the biggest contributor to my later success in school was having a solid school system.

A solid system has a couple requirements:

1. It can be audited (i.e. if I ask you how you work on different school-related items, you can tell me confidently & clearly exactly how you operate)

2. It has collection of good procedures to follow for everything you deal with.

For example, how do you handle each of the following?
  • School administration
  • Semester preparation
  • Organize a class
  • Take class notes
  • Do homework
  • Study a textbook
  • Write an essay
  • Do an art project
  • Master a math formula
Getting serious about having reliable procedures was a huge boon to my productivity & effectiveness in school. I used to sit & stare at blank pieces of paper & Word documents for hours when trying to write an essay; I now follow a clearly-defined procedure in order to get great results. It's just like following a recipe for a certain food dish...follow these specific steps to get that particular result. If you're in your early 40's, working, have a family, and want to go back to school, then you're going to need procedures to follow, and you're going to need good ones to follow. I used to think that the best approach was just "trying really hard" & spending hours chipping away with no game-plan other than "just do it"; I am much more procedure-based now. For example, I can pop out a 10-page essay in an afternoon easily these days & know that I'm going to ace it, grade-wise.

Using a procedures-based approach really does make school about simply putting in the time & following the directions, instead of having to use a lot of willpower & motivation to get through each study session & class project. Getting serious about my study system resulted in seriously good grades. Took me a long time to figure that out (well into college, unfortunately). It sounds simple, but if you lack a good studying system backed by solid procedures, then imo you're taking the long & hard road to doing well in school.
Jul 1, 2001
If I were you, I'd take the money that you were going to spend on college and spend it on a proper muscle car.


Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
If I were you, I'd take the money that you were going to spend on college and spend it on a proper muscle car.
Hear, hear! Also, ice storm last night :(

Feb 26, 2006
I got sent back to school in my 50's. (Voc-rehab thing) i had a fucking blast. At first, I was concerned about teying to "compet" with all the kids who had recently graduated from high school with all their "fresh learning," but...pfft...no problem.
Sit in the front row, pay attention, take GOOD notes...and do 't be afraid to ask questions. (and if you want ti irritate the kiddies, be sure to tell stories in class that might be slightly pertinant to the topic at hand...) :p

Always remember...

If you can't dazzle them with your brillance,
Baffle them with your bullshit!
Jul 15, 2003
I went back at 29 and it sucked balls.

FYI after several years I only got one associates degree and part of a bachelors.
Its hell, and unless you know for a fact you can get a job with it, I dont recommend starting.
Feb 20, 2001
I'm 41 now and I've been thinking about going back too. At this point, it wouldn't help my career, so I would do it more for personal accomplishment. I received my Associates degree and never finished by Bachelors and always regretted it. The thing is that I studied Computer Science a long time ago and going back would mean retaking a lot of classes all over again, and since I don't work in a computer related field and have no interest in studying computer programming or networking, I'm thinking of studying something Business related instead.


Golden Member
Aug 17, 2004
I'm 50 and I've thought about it. I quit school after 3 years to take a job making much more than I'd make with the degree I was pursuing. Financially I think that it would be stupid for me, not sure about your situation though. I make decent money, I'm debt free, have retirement saving moving along nicely, etc. It'd set me back even if I made up for the remaining years of my working life.

I guess if you're financially happy and you're just worried that you don't have that degree, don't stress out over not having it and everyone around you having it. Be comfortable with yourself for doing the job on your own merits.
Feb 25, 2011
I just finished a second bachelors at 36. It was degree #4. Class two nights a week at an affordable local school that targets working parents and immigrants. (So pretty much everything is available online or at night.)

Two classes per semester, one in summer. Took me 3.5 years to go through the course requirements for a BS in CompSci, but I had the previous degree (in music) so they didn't make me do general ed classes or do a minor.

I have no children.

Insufferable little shits who think they know everything but don't are annoying. But happily, they don't last.

Degree programs don't magically make you an expert on something, and mind-bogglingly, they're not supposed to - they're usually geared for a "wide and shallow" introduction to an area; you get more specialized in grad school, but ultimately becoming, like, "The iSCSI Guy" or "The Microsoft Access Guy" or whatever and slotting into a professional specialization, requires you to put in the time on your own. More time than you spend getting a degree, TBH.

Many of my classmates - especially older students - found this frustrating, in the "why am I paying for this stupid stuff I either don't care about or could just read on Wikipedia" sense.

The problem is that if you're 40+ years old, you probably have a very specific end goal for your career, whereas the 20 year olds in the room haven't gone through the sorting process - they don't know who will spend the next 30 years babysitting a router, and who will end up getting a PhD and doing theoretical algorithm design, so the University requires everybody have at least enough of an intro to both topics (and all the other ones) that they can be dangerous.

Since you don't have a previous degree, there will probably be mandatory cross-cultural classes, English, math, and all that other fun stuff too. Try to enjoy it anyway.

Find out if the school expires credits and plan accordingly. (Mine required you to take all of your programming and technical classes within a 5 year period before graduation - otherwise you have to start over. They were constantly updating curriculum and content.)

Find out ASAP who the good teachers are and make sure you take most of your classes with them. The difference a good prof makes is pretty profound.

Good luck.
Nov 30, 2004
Never been to college, and I hated high school. I've occasionally thought about taking courses in /something/, but I don't know what that something would be. Any enthusiasm I had for the subject would likely be killed by schooling. Hands on vocational training could be fun. I checked the local community college for arborist courses, but they didn't have anything. If I wasn't busy with my real job, I'd just try to get a gig with a tree company. Get paid a little bit of money, and learn some stuff.


Platinum Member
Nov 16, 1999
A couple years ago I was offered to get my Masters on the company's dime that would've supposedly helped with promotions. It would be a 3 yrs long program done after work and half day Fridays thing. I looked at my 3 kids at the time between 7 and 13 yrs and imagined about all the soccer and basketball and camping I'd missed. Thought about it long and hard for about 5 min and turned it down.
I never liked school and hated taking tests. I still don't like it when I have to get professional certifications at work. Not my cup of tea. I guess I'm just not that motivated of a person and enjoys my personal time with family. I do work hard at my job but that's where it ends. I know people that went thru the program and have since promoted to higher positions but I've no regret with my personal decision. Frankly I can't wait til I can retire and not have to work anymore.
Sep 22, 2007
I wouldn't do it unless it was 100% paid for by your company. Degrees like MBAs are a dime a dozen now and are too expensive to obtain on your own. A Bachelor's degree might be a little different though, so it might be worth getting. If you're just looking for the initials after your name and your company won't pay for it, look at a cheaper online option like WGU.