Going Back to College at almost 40



Last year, my husband and I were having one of our evening talks and he asked me why I never finished college degree. I reminded him that there was a lot going on in our lives at that time and school was just too stressful for me (new job, son starting middle school, and other things).

After talking for a LONG time that night, we decided that I should go back to college to finish my degree in elementary education!! I was SO excited and nervous but extremely happy. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. It’s been my dream since I was a little kid and it’s something I thought I would never get to accomplish. I’m also a nerd. I love everything about school: I love school supplies, I love reading and I love researching and learning new things.


That night I jumped online to research everything about going back to college. I had a TON of questions running through my head…

  • Should I start with a community college or a university?
  • Should I attend my local school or one further away?
  • Would I qualify for financial aid?
  • Would it be better if I attended school online?
  • Could I do a hybrid (some online, some in person)?
  • Could I really handle school work, housework, family time, church commitments, etc. without going insane?
  • How would I fit school into my already busy life?
  • What sacrifices would I have to make?
  • What? How? Should? Could? etc.

After staying up WAY past my bedtime and tossing and turning all night, I was more confused than when I started! I began to question if this was really the right decision for me and for my family. I had to talk to someone who could help me figure things out. So I spoke to my boss who is a school principal. She reassured me that I could definitely do this! It was nice to hear it from someone who I’ve worked with for 9 years. She has seen my work ethic. She has seen what I can handle on a professional level, so I trust her judgment.


In order to narrow down my choices, I had to eliminate what I knew would NOT work for me.

I met with representatives of several colleges, sat down with admission counselors and the head of the education department of my local university. I asked questions about the programs they offered and whether or not it was realistic for a working adult. They were all very patient and honest and I am so grateful for that.

Here is what I decided I wanted:

  • A short commute
  • Accelerated classes
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Affordable tuition

This list helped to eliminate my local community college (no Bachelor’s degrees, duh), my local university (no accelerated classes) and a somewhat local college with accelerated classes designed for working adults (expensive tuition).

So what did that leave me with? NOTHING!! I could not find ANY local colleges that met all of my criteria, except…


ONLINE COLLEGE!! I had heard about it and explored the websites but I was so set on having the real school experience, like sitting in a classroom with other students and having a professor, that I totally ignored and rejected the idea of attending an online college.

Realizing that the only way I was going to get everything I wanted in a school was to go the online route, I did some more research and found a college in my State that met all of my criteria! I chose Charter Oak State College. They are a regionally accredited school (this is VERY important when choosing a school), they offer accelerated courses, they accept almost every kind of college credit including tests such as CLEP, and they have 3 terms – Spring, Summer, Fall. The staff was very pleasant and I always received quick responses to my emails.

So, I applied in November 2015 and was officially enrolled in December 2015.  They accepted ALL of my previous college credits (30) and I qualified for full financial aid! Yay! My first class started in January 2016, which was an introductory class every student must take, called the Cornerstone Seminar. It is basically an English composition class with critical thinking skills. It was a great first online class for me.


I realized that I really enjoyed taking an online class. Because there was zero commuting and I could work on my assignments on my own time, I felt less stressed about being a college student. There were due dates for certain items (i.e. weekly discussions responses due every Wednesday with responses to peers by Sunday.) So, I quickly adapted to the online module and fell into a great routine. I was able to manage school, housework and family time well (with a lot of help from my husband). Yes, there were times when the dishes piled up in the sink and the laundry overflowed. There were times when I was up ’til midnight or later finishing up an assignment, but for the most part, it was manageable. I took one more class that semester – Human Biology with a lab (4 credits). It was much easier than the Cornerstone Seminar and I finished with an A.


My original plan was to get my Bachelor’s in American Studies through Charter Oak State College. I planned to take some CLEP tests to speed up my progress towards graduation and then enroll in my State’s Alternate Route to Certification to become a Spanish teacher. But the problem was that my heart was not really into teaching Spanish. One of the main reasons I wanted to finish my degree and become a teacher is because I’ve wanted to be an ESL teacher (English as a Second Language). I don’t want to teach Spanish to English speaking, students. I want to teach English to students who’s first language is not English. So my search for the perfect school or program started up again.

And this time, I think I’ve found it at Western Governors University. But, I’ll tell you more about that in my next post.

Have you decided to return to college? Why? What is your plan? I’d love to hear from other adults returning to school!! Comment below.


Comments are closed.