It’s Never Too Late to Start Studying

Starting college ‘late’ was the best choice I’ve ever made

George G
George G
Nov 30, 2018 · 5 min read
Image: Wohnai @ Flickr

For those of us didn’t go to college/university at the ‘normal’ time, it often feels like the chance has already passed us by. You’ve got way more responsibilities than someone fresh out of high school, and you feel like you’re too old for the whole ‘college experience’ of on-campus living and partying with your peers. For that matter, do you really want to be the only adult in a first-year classroom full of babyfaced teenagers? On top of all that, just how old are you gonna be when you finally graduate?!

I had these exact doubts when I was considering taking the plunge myself a few years ago. Now, I realise that they were nothing but excuses, keeping me from doing something that, deep down, I really, really wanted to do.

My story

The first step was convincing myself to go for it. It wasn’t easy — I even had to take a trip abroad to figure out my majors — but in the end, I did it. What helped most was finally realising that people who start university ‘late’ are actually very common: over in Australia, for example, only 40% of university students went straight there from high school.

Of course, the system is different in the US, where it’s more difficult to get into a top school. Still, many people go to community college and then transfer their credit to an undergraduate degree later — even if it’s not at the best institution, it’s still very worthwhile. I myself did something very similar. The most important thing to remember is that there’s always some means of entry available to everyone, including you! (provided you can afford the tuition, of course)

Once that huge hurdle was passed, I chose my majors, enrolled in my classes, and prepared myself. I obsessed over every minute detail, overthinking it all, as if first year college courses were going to be the hardest thing I ever do.

I was incredibly wrong. It turns out that the seven or eight years of life experience I had over most of my class actually counted for a whole lot. In that time, I’d improved in areas that I didn’t even realise, from logic & reasoning skills to writing, organisation, reading comprehension, work ethic, and even maturity.

While your classmates fall asleep, you’ll be wide awake. / Image: D Sharon Pruitt @ Wikimedia Commons

Additionally, I was there for one reason and one reason only: because I wanted to be. This is the biggest difference between older and younger students. Many teenagers go to college simply because it seems like it’s what they’re supposed to do, or because their parents want them to, when they’d heavily benefit from waiting until they’ve really thought it over. Older students have already been there, done that — a whole damn lot of it, in fact! We’re ready and raring to go.

All of these advantages combined to make my initial classes an absolute breeze. Despite not having as much time for study as I would’ve liked, I was not only completely on top of everything, but I also got excellent grades and plenty of compliments from my professors. I was pretty much the embodiment of the ‘knowitall older student who asks too many questions and finishes their papers way too early’ stereotype. I never knew I had it in me!

This helped me realise that I was actually benefitting from ‘missing out’ on the ‘college experience’. I’d long since outgrown that whole scene, and I watched my partying, dorm-living younger classmates struggling to keep up with the content that I was breezing through. Instead, I found it very easy to separate my college life from the rest of it: I had no desire to be on campus for a second longer than the the time it took to finish my classes.

Sure, for a lot of people, the social aspect is a big reason to go to college. Never fear: you’re still going to make friends, it just won’t be such a defining part of your studies. You’ve probably already got your social life sorted out, anyway — at least to the extent that some mostly-immature 18-year olds of a different generation probably wouldn’t enrich it very much!

Dorms might be a dream for teenagers, but not for older students. / Image: Footprint Creative @ Flickr

In fact, I’ve found that I tend to have more in common with my teachers than my classmates, as many of them are around my age or just a bit older than me. Indeed, I count as many former lecturers amongst the friends and acquaintances I’ve made at college as I do classmates! This has the additional benefit of making future networking much easier, as each teacher is also an established professional contact.

As time went by, everything just kept getting easier. Even as I went up in year levels and classes got more complicated and nuanced, the difficulty was increasing slower than the speed at which my skills and knowledge were developing. This is thanks in no small part to how much easier it becomes to just put your head down and do the work when you really want to be there.

This isn’t just me, either: lots of the friends I’ve met in class also started late, and every one of them has found it to be a breeze compared to what they‘d initially imagined.

Now? I’m graduating at the end of this year. It all went by so fast — if I’d known it would’ve been so simple, I would’ve done it years earlier rather than just letting the idea bounce around in my head for so long.

In fact, I’m actually happy that I ended up waiting to study! There’s no way 18 or 19-year old me would have done anywhere near as well as 26-year old me did. The chance mentioned in the first paragraph didn’t pass me by— I actually ended up starting at exactly the right time for me.

For you, the right time is now.


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George G

Written by

George G

I write at the intersection of politics, history & film. Also fiction & personal stories. Australian, speaks Spanish. }

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