50 and Back to School
by Alia Curtis
One of the most pressing questions often heard about
returning to school after age 50 is one of practicality:
is returning to school practical for someone who should
be considering retirement? The truth is that today,
the security of retiring with a substantial income,
worry- free housing, and the good life deserved after
being employed for a lifetime is non-existent for many.
Instead you are often faced with forced early retirement,
job replacement, unemployment, and a market requiring
skills you simply dont have. The question of age
practicality becomes moot because age does not determine
practicality and retirement does not guarantee financial
The decision has to be based on survival. Viewing your
situation on the grounds of survival clarifies direction,
and a more practical question can be considered, How
can I survive comfortably as I progress into my retirement
age? If survival involves brushing up old skills
or relearning new ones, returning to school is a clear-cut,
confusion free decision. So the next question is, Where
do I start?
You start at the beginning.
1. Be prepared to do research.
Specific information is mandatory. Research what is
required on your present job that will enable you to
compete with the new generation. For example, the public
school system is changing dramatically. In some areas,
teachers that have been on the job for years have
to reapply for their positions. The new trend is charter
schools and the demand for future teachers is skills
that will rescue the student that has fallen through
the cracks. These skills require techniques that improve
communication between student to student and teacher
to student. New approaches to assist learning will be
in demand. A long-term teacher could research the higher
learning institutions for degrees or certifications
that will make her/him more marketable. If you are not
employed, research the job market; find out what the
top jobs are and what skills the employers require.
If you are not sure what direction you want to go in
I would suggest reference books like Cool
Careers for Dummies, by Nemko Edwards, or consult
your local library or online bookstores.
2. Having assessed the required skills, research
the institutions of higher learning that offer degrees
or certifications that teach or enhance those skills.
You can request a syllabus in many cases and compare
the curriculum and prices to determine which is best
in terms of your needs. Many institutions have Web pages
that answer questions concerning curriculum, admissions,
financial aid, location, housing, contact information
and/or scheduling. You can choose between distance learning
or physically attending a college or university. If
you are not computer savvy, your local library will
provide you with that information.
3. Having found the institution of your choice, research
the admission requirements from their brochure or Web
pages and familiarize yourself with
application forms. Many downloadable forms are available
online and to review or practice filling them out makes
it easier to prepare for the paperwork
that is required.
4. Many perspective students will need financial
aid. After determining what the cost of your education
will be find out if the institution offers financial
aid in the forms of grants, scholarships and/ or loans.
It is best to familiarize yourself with financial aid
applications and their deadlines. You can review the
downloadable forms on the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Web
site. Reading and practicing filling out the forms clears
some of the confusion in the application process. Applying
online is efficient and convenient and directions are
given step by step. It cuts down time in the personal
financial aid application process. It clearly defines
deadlines and once you have applied, it files and records
your application. If you need to reapply all of your
past information is available accessed by a personal