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College-it’s not just for kids anymore. More older adults are starting or returning to college than ever before.  Maybe you are one of them, or maybe you have been harboring a desire to further your education. For many older would-be students, the prospect is daunting. It is often the intimidation factor that prevents older adults from pursuing this dream. The good news? Many colleges and universities around the country have programs designed with you in mind.

First, here is some terminology that may help. Students over the age of 25 are typically referred to as “non-traditional” students. By some estimates, more than 40 percent of currently-enrolled college students are non-traditional students. Next, be aware of programs and schools labeled “continuing education.” These are programs that often focus primarily on non-traditional students.

Here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University’s Continuing Education department offers lifelong learners several options, including individual course offerings – everything from biology, political science and marketing, to foreign languages, computer science and psychology. You can also enroll in a certificate program, including topics as specific as paralegal studies. Check out the department’s course catalogue for more. While LSU Continuing Studies does not offer full degree programs, it does offer a wide variety of subject areas.

In New Orleans, Tulane University’s School of Professional Advancement, does, however, offer full degree programs for adult learners. Programs are offered in disciplines as varied as legal studies. Emergency and security studies, digital design, education and more. This school even offers masters degrees for those who have already earned their bachelors degree. Most classes are offered in the evening, convenient for those who work full time during the day. Many classes meet just once or twice a week. Check out SOPA’s course catalog.

Both of these schools offer “distance learning” courses, more commonly known as online classes.

Step one is for you to make up your mind to expand your education. That may mean just taking a course in which you are interested, or committing to a full degree program. Then make an appointment with an academic advisor at the school of your choice and have your questions ready. Many adult learners who pursue degrees start out slowly, perhaps by taking just one course. Once you get used to the self-discipline and time required to successfully complete a course, you can pace yourself by enrolling in the number of courses you feel you can handle.

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