How to Apply for College at Age 60 or Older

Applying to college at any age can be stressful and intimidating. The key to applying when you're older is essentially the same as applying during high school: highlight your strengths. Other articles can help with the procedures and basic steps in the application process. Below are a few strengths most people your age possess, and ways to make them work for you.


  1. 1
    Emphasize your experience. By the time you are 60, you have a wealth of experience and knowledge about the way things work. You almost certainly have some work experience that will be relevant to your application, but you also come with a knowledge of how the world works and what you can expect when you finish college. Most of your classmates will be concentrating on their ability to learn. You can establish a theme in your application package that revolves around your ability to do.
    • Do not highlight your high school grades. You will have to submit them anyway, so they'll know how you did. But if you reach back 40+ years to find something that shows your strength, they'll assume you don't have anything more recent that shows what you can do.
    • Describe any work or other experience in terms that show how well you'll do as a student. Other applicants will make promises about what they'll do. You can do the same, but you have so much more to back up your promises and you assure the institution that you will follow through.
  2. 2
    Focus on the benefits of diversity. Admissions personnel are looking to make their institution look better in two basic ways: 1) Show that its students are good students, and 2) Show that they are not some kind of diploma mill that churns out thousands of the same product. They want to know what makes you unique, and they can use that in establishing a profile or image for the institution.
    • Your personal statement should concentrate on the different perspective you can bring to the classroom, and how a degree from this college will help you provide that perspective later on in a professional setting.
  3. 3
    Highlight your determination. The fact that you are applying at this age shows that you won't let the norms of our society stand in your way. You know few will be starting the process at your age, but you recognize that you can still contribute in meaningful ways, and you're willing to do what it takes to make that happen. Your application package should reflect the fact that while it is your dream to attend this particular institution, a denial of your application will not keep you from earning a degree and contributing to society in new ways.
    • As a side note, you are not alone in applying later in life. Many from your generation are entering higher education institutions. More than 16% of applicants today are over the age of 40, with ample representation from those in your age range. You won't be the only one applying, but you can be the one who stands out among the few who do apply.
  4. 4
    Show your focus. While you probably have a lot going on in your life, you are probably much better at prioritizing than a person just leaving high school. You probably won't be tempted by Thursday night parties and the kinds of activities that lure young people away from classroom attendance. You are more likely to be there every day, and are more practiced at juggling the various responsibilities you have.
  5. 5
    Fight the stereotypes. Everyone has heard that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Even though this is rarely true in humans, it's a perception you may have to overcome. The best way to combat this is to prove it's not true in your case. For one thing, you are applying to college at this age (which you likely haven't done before). Anything you can do to break the stereotype will work in your favor. This can be anything from electing to complete the whole application online as opposed to in person or by mail to the words and phrases you choose in the application.
    • Because of all you already bring to the table, colleges and universities are likely to open their doors to you. Rely on your strengths and highlight what makes you special, and you'll be in the classroom before you know it.


  • If you are looking to apply for colleges for the first time at this age, you probably have not been in the classroom for a long time. Not only is the learning environment different and more technology-focused, but you are probably not used to completing arbitrary, made up tasks that can impact the rest of your life. The best thing to do here is jump in with both feet. Recognize that college is an opportunity to learn, but it's also a game with a specific set of rules. If you can learn those rules and play along, it won't take you long to get up to speed.


  • Colleges and universities, even State schools, rely on the monetary contributions of alumni to fund various activities and programs. Because you're starting this process later in life, the college may see your lifetime earning capacity as being lower. The school may think this makes you less likely to contribute later. Overall, this should not make a big difference, and if your determination shows in your application, any obstacle can actually make you look better.

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Categories: Applying for Tertiary Education