Top 15 Reasons Adults Go Back to School

by Contributor on Apr 09, 2012

Learning is a life-long process. People learn at home, on the job, and through hobbies, sports interests, and cultural events. But, the classroom can bring more insight into a specific adult requirement for knowledge, especially when that course or degree is designed to help someone improve a lifestyle. Adults often want to improve their financial worth and chances for promotion, but other interests include honing a skill that can be used in retirement. The contrast between learning as consumption for leisure on the one hand and learning as investment for economic returns on the other, fails to recognize the very important reality that a healthy work and life balance is, ultimately, beneficial for adults, their families and their communities. The following list contains 15 of the many reasons why adults go back to school.

Work Related Reasons

Interrupted Education

  1. If you’ve been passed over for promotion because your skills (computer, business, or leadership, etc.) are not up to date, then you might think about going back to school. Some employers may pay for these classes upon successful completion, as participation in courses for career advancement often is smiled upon by management. Check with your managers for information on what types of courses would be beneficial to your position. Many corporations will pay for their employees to work on MBAs in the evening or on weekends.
  2. If the technical aspects of job require additional training or education, you might think about seeking further education to avoid losing a job. The same criteria applies here about seeking employer dollars to pay for that education. Although a degree may sound daunting, many technical courses are designed for certification — a process that can involve less time and money to get you up to speed technically.
  3. That new boss may be getting on your nerves. If it appears that things aren’t going to get better at work, then you can concentrate on learning new skills so you can leave that toxic environment. A career change is not that uncommon, especially after one or two decades in a current career. Don’t worry about being the youngest student in a class — your participation may even enrich your classmates’ learning experiences, and they could probably teach you a few skills, too.
  4. If your company is in the habit of “retiring” employees before the employees have a chance to retire, then you might think ahead on what you can do if you are let go at age 63 or 64. You can avoid digging into that retirement fund too early if you are skilled in jobs that seek elderly workers. Or, you might think about opening your own business. Either way, seek courses or degrees that can validate your knowledge.
  5. Now that you’ve raised your kids and you’re facing the “empty nest syndrome,” you might think about going back to school to improve your work skills to re-enter the workforce. The government has excellent information on adult learning on its directgov website, which will give you some good ideas.
  6. If you’ve already lost your job, you might have some time to get extra training for a new job or career. If finances are a worry for you, be sure to check out some resources for those who are in need of grants and funds to supplement that education through federal or state opportunities. The college you choose also may have monies for adult learners. Ask the financial aid department for each college you choose for more information.
  7. Completing a degree provides another reason to choose school. Many adults forgo their degrees because of various life-altering reasons such as growing a family, a career move, or financial difficulties. Completing a degree not only means a possible wage increase, but it can open doors to new careers. Transfer credit may be available for the classes that were completed at an earlier time. Be sure to obtain your transcripts from every institution that you have attended. You might be able to complete that degree online, too.
  8. You have a definite advantage as an adult student. Many adult students got their start in careers as high school graduates, and go back to school for a degree to further their progress in that career. These graduates already possess considerable industry knowledge. Backing that knowledge up with technical skills can prove beneficial.
  9. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 80 percent of adult learners who go back to school graduate with a degree, compared to 50 percent of those students who attend college right after high school. As a nontraditional student, you’re less likely to become distracted by the social scene at your school. You’ve made sacrifices to go back, so you’re less likely to try and skate by with just-passing grades. And you’re more aware of the contacts you’ll need once you graduate, so your networking is more targeted.

Personal Reasons


  1. If you want to learn something new, what’s stopping you? You can go back to school to learn art, music, history, cooking, dance, or any number of skills that you can use as a self-employed person or simply to enjoy as a hobby. It’s never too late to learn, and you can overcome your own fears about returning to school simply by doing it for educational enrichment and for self-improvement.
  2. If you are concerned about community, climate change, or other social issues, you can return to school to learn how to become a community activist or an urban planner. You can learn about new urban living arrangements that are environmentally sound, and participate in activities such as this one for saving adult education. You’ll learn that there are a multitude of subjects available on environmental issues, too, including some that could lead into a career in agriculture or forestry.
  3. If you don’t like getting old, attending classes can be one remedy for feeling younger. Ongoing education can help you feel active and engaged [PDF], both physically and mentally. You may discover that teachers learn how to differentiate typical college students from adult learners, and often use different tactics to engage both. If you are goal-oriented, though, you’ll learn how to get what you need.
  4. You may simply want to take advantage of tax benefits for adult learners. You could qualify for US income tax credits and/or tax deductions including up to $4,000 depending on income.
  5. You can contribute to health and social capital outcomes by becoming an adult student. The findings for this report suggests that adult learning has effects on a wide range of outcomes and plays an important role in contributing to the small shifts in attitudes and behaviors that take place during mid adulthood.
  6. As for you and your health, it is now known that the human brain ben­e­fits from envi­ron­ments rich in novel and com­plex stim­uli, and that by actively par­tic­i­pat­ing in soci­ety and tak­ing on per­son­ally rel­e­vant roles, peo­ple find mean­ing and pur­pose, which gives them a rea­son to get up in the morn­ing and pur­sue new challenges. So, go back to school and get some meaning in your life.