What it’s like to be a student in your 30s


Photo via Pixabay

Milena Martinovic, Reporter

“Where did the last decade of my life go?” Students in their 30s who decided to go back to school have probably asked this question more than once. The majority of the younger undergraduate student body probably can’t wait to be done with school. No more homework, no more stress or student loans just the real world of paying your bills and having a career. According to the small percentage of students in their 30s, going back to school is a necessary step to advance the next step of their lives that they were unable to comprehend seriously at a younger age. It’s become less of an obligation and more of an active participation.

Christy Lorio, 39, who went back to school twice in her 30s for undergraduate and graduate degrees, agrees. “All of my assignments felt like a chore and I was just going through the motions, taking courses because I had to, not because I wanted to,” she said. “Now I want to be here and try to get the most I can out of each course I take and try to be as active as I can on campus by participating in events.”  

Interestingly, those who went back to grad school in their 30s after being out of school for a decade or more may feel that it is somewhat easier the second time around they take it more seriously and follow the general level of expectations more than when they were younger.

“On the plus side, I know more about the whole process than when I was getting my bachelor’s degree. I’m more prepared,” Robbie Morgan, 35, observes.

What’s it like to be among all the younger people? 30-somethings find the younger students quite refreshing. “It’s been great to meet a new batch of people of younger ages and to take me out of my usual day-to-day, forcing me to work together with all sorts of personalities,” claims Ben Donnellon, 34.

However, the downside may not be as psychological as much as simply physiological. Morgan feels that he is “more tired than I was in my 20s,” while Donnellon says it’s all been “pretty exhausting, as my energy levels aren’t the same as they used to be.”  

Lorio, on the other hand, had serious trouble with grades during her undergraduate years, but still managed to get into grad school. “So keep in mind that your past doesn’t define you,” she shares. There can be some misconceptions, like being mistaken for an instructor or, even stranger, having an instructor who’s younger than the student. Also, instead of “a meme throwback,” a real-life 1990s reference from the older student may feel confusing to younger students, as in Lorio’s case, who felt this any time she mentioned being in high school in the 1990s. It was a result of being mistaken for being 10 years younger, as most people’s expectations are that students continue grad school right after their undergraduate diploma. The truth is, students in their 30s have a better understanding of themselves and their goals. They hold a much clearer idea of what they want to get out of the education and how to make use of the campus. Call it maturity, call it appreciation, but all of them can agree that the real world out there is not nearly as simple, fulfilling or interesting as they perhaps thought it to be in their early 20s.  As a result, or because of circumstance, they’re here striving for more.