Mom Scholarships > Going Back To School At 40 – Can It Be Done?

Going Back To School At 40 – Can It Be Done?

Updated: January 2, 2017

If you think you’re too old for school at 40 years of age or older, think again!

It’s never too late to get a degree or other higher education qualification.

The old saying “better late than never” couldn’t be more appropriate when it comes to furthering your education as an adult.

Just ask 99 year old college graduate Doreetha Daniels who completed an associate degree at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA.

On how she motivated herself to be committed to earning her degree at such a grand age, Doreetha stated:

“Don’t give up. Do it. Don’t let anybody discourage you. Say that, ‘I’m going to do it,’ and do it for yourself.”

Suddenly, being a 40 year old college student doesn’t sound so extreme at all does it?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 17% of college and graduate students in 2009 were aged over 35 and this figure is expected to rise to 19% by 2020.

That’s almost 1 in 5 college students aged 35 years or over. So if you think you’ll feel out of place on campus, that certainly won’t be the case.

Reasons older people go back to school

If you yourself are in your 40s and are considering going to college, you would have a good reason for it. And you’re far from alone.

So many women have ambitions to complete or further their education. This website alone that you’re reading has hundreds of comments submitted by women just like you who are seeking a better future.

And there’s no doubt that education is the key to a brighter tomorrow.

Sunrise along the road

Whatever your reason is for wanting to advance your education, the end goal is usually the same – to provide a better future for you and your family. More specifically, the main reasons that mature age students enrol in college and university include:

Starting a New Career or Advancing Current Career

If you have or had a career before having children, but have been out of the workforce for some time, returning to your old career might not be possible because technology and other factors have changed and advanced, while your skills and knowledge have been left behind.

Redeveloping skills and knowledge can allow you to take on a brand new career, or return to your old one with an entirely new skillset.

Job Loss

People who are fired from a job they’ve worked in for many years may now see it as a turning point to enhancing skills and qualifications, especially where the prospects of finding another similar job are slim. More skills and qualifications = better job prospects.

Financial Considerations of Returning To School at 40

Studying costs money; there’s no way around that. If you’re leaving a job or reducing your hours at work in order to go back to school, you will of course be sacrificing some income.

However, many women who return to college try to find more flexible options, such as night classes and distance or online education.

In some cases this can mean being able to work while studying. It’s important not to underestimate how much time you will need for completing assignments and other out of class work though, as well as maintaining some balance in your life.

Employer Assistance

If you are employed and are planning to stay at your job while studying, as your employer about any tuition assistance programs they might have.

In some cases, employer assistance can cover the entire cost of your study! But even if it’s just a small amount, any financial help is always welcome.

If your course directly relates to your job, your employer will be able to see the value in you enhancing your skills and qualifications and might be more inclined to want to provide some sort of financial support, as well as being open to more flexible hours. You have nothing to lose by asking.

Study Options For Over 40s

Juggling multiple life commitments, like working and looking after your family, means that studying has to be slotted into your schedule somehow, without having a negative impact on the other things in your life.

This is where flexible learning options come in. These include:

  • Part time study
  • Distance education (hybrid on-campus and online)
  • Online study

Part Time Study

Studying part time allows you to juggle work and personal life easier with your studies. The downsides are that your degree will take double the time to complete, and that many scholarships and grants are only open to students who are enrolled in full time study.

But if part time is your only viable option, it is still definitely worth pursuing. There are still grants out there for part time students, and even if it does take you long to complete your course, it is considerably better than not doing it at all.

In short, if studying part time or at reduced weekly hours is the only option that fits into your life circumstances, don’t let that stop you from enrolling. Many students complete degrees at reduced study hours and reap the benefits well into the future.

Distance Learning and Online Education

In the past, studying via distance or online was something that only people who lived in remote areas did. These days it is much more mainstream, even for people living in major cities. Why? There are many reasons for wanting to do some or even all of your studies online.

While it’s true that some fields of study will require you to attend a campus for some classes, such as those that require practical lessons (the sciences for example), if your course is mostly theory based then there’s a good chance you’ll be able to complete all of it without stepping foot on campus.

I’ll be posting a more in depth article about distance and online study soon, so keep an eye out for that. But this is an area that is absolutely useful for mothers and adults wanting to return to school, but who don’t have the time to attend on-campus classes.

Are There Any Grants Or Scholarships For Mothers Over 40?

Scholarships for students over 40 do exist. But you can also simply apply for any scholarship that isn’t eligible only to school leavers.

There are literally thousands of these scholarship programs out there. Not all of them will be suited to your needs or your own situation, BUT many of them will be.

The more specific the requirements of a grant or scholarship are, the less people who are eligible to apply and of course, the higher chance you will have to be awarded one or even more than one.

Thinking outside the box a little can really help you with finding and applying for suitable scholarships if you’re an over 40 Mom, or an adult of any age wanting to return to school and needing some financial assistance.

  • Scholarships based on financial need are a good place to start if you are on a low income
  • More specifically, there are scholarships that are targeted especially for women, at mothers, at single mothers, and at women from minority groups or certain locations. Find out what’s offered by your local colleges, as well as community groups, businesses, and other providers.
  • The Federal Pell Grant is open to you, and you just need to complete your FAFSA to begin the application process. You can receive over $5000 from the Pell Grant, and it will not affect how much extra money you can receive in scholarships from other sources.


So while going back to school at 40 might seem like a scary thought at first, especially when you’re worried whether you can even afford it, the truth is that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Thousands of adult students enrol in college degrees every year, and there’s no reason why you can’t be one of them. With a grant or scholarship, you can receive the financial assistance that will make your transition into study that much easier, while also being able to continue your obligations to your home, your work and your family.

Click here to have a chance to win $1000 and register for 100’s of scholarships with just one application

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