When I enrolled at UCLA in Fall 2013 at thirty-two years old, I wasn’t sure how old the majority of my peers would be. Would I be the ‘older one’ or a ‘younger one’? Turns out, I’m on the older side, as most of my classmates are in their 20s. But I’ve been assured that classes prior to mine (class of 2015) had an older median age.
I’ve had friends tell me, “I’m too old to go to graduate school now,” thinking their ship has sailed. But it’s not true – you’re never too old for graduate school. And, according to information collected from the 2000 National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey, the average graduate student is 33 years old. Not only that, but 20% of all graduate students are over the age of 40.
You may worry about the perceived ‘stigma’ of being an older graduate student. But in my mind, yes, you may stand out if you’re an older student but standing out is good. Really. People are curious about you and your background, and many times you’re perceived as being courageous for continuing to go after your goals. One of the most talented recent graduates in my program was a grandmother in her 60s, and she was awesome. She won tons of awards for her writing and one of her TV pilots was actually produced.
When you go to graduate school later in life, you have a better idea of where you’re aiming to go. You don’t get stuck in “academic inertia” as one college professors said when he warned me against applying to school too soon. You also appreciate the sweetness of graduate school life a lot more than would if you were only a few years out of college (That is, if you’re not simultaneously working a full-time job, which is a beast.)
Also, you can benefit form the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit, which in 2014-2015 was about $2,000 per year. However, there are income restrictions and only one member of married couple can benefit from this credit at a time. You can read more about it here.
Education, at any age, is never a waste.