No, You Are Not Too Old For Grad School

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Shorter Version


Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute

Whether you are exploring the idea of grad school because you are aiming for a promotion, thinking about a career change, or you’re just generally unsure of what your next step should be, age should not be a factor that limits you.

Education is learning, and learning is an investment in yourself. It is NEVER too late to invest in yourself.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average age of graduate students is 32.4 years old!

Don’t stress over being too old for grad school

If you are concerned about pursuing grad school at an older age, here are some recommendations to alleviate some of that stress:

  1. Do not create fictitious deadlines for yourself!
  2. Do some self-reflection and identify your why.
  3. Take as much time to think everything over and make a pro/con list for all angles.
  4. Gather information – Talk with your current employer and schedule a meeting with admissions professionals from grad schools you are considering.

Though it might never feel like the “right time” to take this leap and pursue a graduate degree, do not let age deter you! Regardless of how old you are, you are NOT too old to go back to school.

Skip to Actionable Steps




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Longer Version


Est. Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Let’s take a walk down memory lane. Think back to your freshman year as an undergraduate student. The feeling of nervous excitement as you moved into your college dorm, the newfound independence and freedom you felt when you stayed up late and didn’t have parents checking in when you came home after a party, discovering the wonders of coffee and your newfound ability to pull all-nighters…

Great times, right? Let’s take a look at your life now…

Between juggling a full-time job, possibly caring for a family, paying off student loans, and trying to squeak by on the bare minimum amount of sleep in order to function, I understand that your current day to day is probably a lot different now compared to your college years.

So you’re thinking about Graduate School?

Whether you just completed your Bachelor’s degree or are deciding to return to school after some time off, the decision to pursue graduate school in your late 20’s (or even your 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s) is a big one. From the time you are just thinking about it, to proceeding with the application, all the way to enrolling in your first semester, there are many factors to consider. It is exciting, daunting, and possibly overwhelming. I assure you – it’s perfectly normal to feel intimidated.

This article will address your concern about pursuing grad school at an older age and help alleviate some of that apprehension you might be feeling.

Let’s cut to the chase

Regardless of how old your birth certificate says you are, you are NOT too old to go back to school. If I could scream that from the rooftops I would. Here’s a scenario – If you are lucky enough to find love later in life, are you “too old” to get married if you wanted to? Of course not. At the divine ages of 102 and 100, this couple tied the knot! It certainly was not “too late” for them to make their dream a reality.

The same can be said for grad school.

You are sitting in the driver’s seat of your life and have the freedom to make what you want of it.

“I’m really considering it, but…”

I’ll stop you right there – no buts! Do not let your fears or anxieties creep up and take control of your drive and ambitions. Whether you are exploring the idea of grad school because you are aiming for a promotion, thinking about a career change, or you’re just generally unsure of what your next step should be, age should not be a factor that limits you.

You might be surprised to learn that according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average age of graduate students is 32.4 years old! Over many decades in U.S. history, at least 45% of graduate student enrollment is aged over 30 years old. The chart below outlines this data nicely, and the breakdown is extremely interesting:

If you are under the impression that there is a narrow or specific window of opportunity to be a student and you missed it… you haven’t! Regardless of your age, you can always better yourself and continue learning.

What is your why?

Though this question might seem vague, I want you to really dig deep as you answer it and evaluate your options. Take a step back and think about a few things:

  • What are your short-term and long-term goals?
  • How does grad school align with or not align with these goals?
  • Why are you letting your age play a factor in this decision?

Think about your purpose and exactly what it is that you are striving to accomplish in life. This way, you can act with intention and make the best choices for you.

If you’re on the fence…

That’s ok! It is undoubtedly a major decision. Just like being an undergraduate student, the graduate school experience is different for everyone. Different responsibilities…pressures…expectations… different everything!

With that being said, I do not recommend pursuing this endeavor on a whim. A graduate degree has numerous benefits that speak for themselves, but is also a long-term commitment that costs time, money, and energy.

Take as much time as you need to make this decision, and be as informed as possible. Make pro/con lists, gather information, and discuss your options with your current employer as well as family and friends. Send an email or schedule a meeting with admissions professionals at grad schools you are interested in so you can learn more. Even if you’re not ready to start a grad program in the foreseeable future, it never hurts to ask questions!

It might never feel like the “right time” to take this leap, but do not let age deter you. If this 102-year-old woman isn’t too old to jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet in the air, then you are not too old for grad school!

Actionable Steps


1

Do not create fictitious deadlines

Whether you choose to pursue grad school or not, creating an age boundary will limit you from investing in yourself. 

2

Know your “why”

Do some self-reflection and identify your why. You don’t need to have every detail of your life planned out, but knowing your purpose will keep you grounded and helps you make those big decisions.

3

Take some time

If you are on the fence about whether or not to move forward with attending grad school, take time to think everything over and make a pro/con list for all angles. Write out everything that comes to mind – it will provide more answers than you think!

4

Gather information

Talk with your current employer and schedule a meeting with admissions professionals from grad schools you are interested in. Whether you have decided to pursue a graduate degree or not, learn as much as you can so you are prepared to make the best decision possible.

Still need help? Ask the coaches!

About the Author


Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

Alyssa holds an Ed. D. in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. For the last 7 years, she has coached hundreds of college students on how to be successful academically and in prepping for a job.
Full Bio | LinkedIn


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