Like many seniors and retirees today will attest, you’re never too old to go to college. Lifelong learning has become increasingly popular in recent years as baby boomers have reached the age of retirement. For some, the purpose of going back to school is to finish their studies and accomplish a degree. But for many more, it’s merely for fun and an opportunity to gain knowledge, discover new interests and keep their minds and bodies fit.

With the rising costs of college, you may see it as an unlikely endeavor. Not to mention, if you’re still in the workforce, where would you find time for the commute and classes, let alone time to study? Fortunately, today, there are many ways to overcome these obstacles.

If you’d like to go to college, first, consider your purpose and what you hope to accomplish. Do you want to earn your degree? Are you primarily interested in broadening your knowledge? Are you in search of new interests and socializing opportunities? Your answer might be one or all of these. But knowing your purpose will give you direction.

Once you’ve determined what you hope to achieve, visit nearby colleges or explore the websites of colleges in the city or state where you’d like to settle for retirement, and see what they have to offer.

Non-traditional college credit

If earning your degree is important to you, today, more and more accredited colleges offer a variety of options for earning nontraditional course credit. Look into this first to save time and money.

At some colleges, you can earn Self-Acquired Competency credits, which may have different names at various institutions. Such credits are available for a wide range of skills and life experiences. They require compiling a portfolio for faculty evaluation. In your portfolio, you can include on-the-job training, work and volunteer experience, workshops, seminars, and more. If you served in the military, you might be eligible for Military Service Credit for education you gained through schools, experience, or service.

You can also earn credits by examination, such as Credits for College-Level Examination Programs or Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support tests.

Credit by examination can also save time and money if you have knowledge in a particular area or if you study and test well. But be sure to check with your institution before enrolling since credit may not be awarded following admission.

Another possibility for credits is if you’ve completed any noncollegiate or in-company sponsored programs or courses. Find out if those programs or courses are any of the thousands reviewed by the American Council on Education. If so, ask your academic institution if they award credits based on ACE recommendations.

Coordinating multiple responsibilities

Like many older Americans, you may still be working. But with a little planning and finesse, you can develop workable solutions that’ll free-up time for your studies.

Start by making a list of all your responsibilities, then cross off anything unnecessary. Where else can you save time? You can do housecleaning every ten to fourteen days rather than weekly. Skip cleaning anything that isn’t in dire need until the next time. Straighten up only the main rooms daily. Others can wait.

Make a pact to limit volunteering your time until you’ve reached your educational goals. If ‘no’ isn’t in your vocabulary, create reminder cards. Then put them by the phone and in your purse, so you’ll be prepared to say ‘no’ at all times.

Discuss the importance of furthering your education with your partner. Ask which responsibilities your partner is willing to take over until you’ve accomplished your goals.

Ask your employer if you can take shorter lunch breaks and leave earlier. Another possibility is for your employer to allow you fewer but longer workdays for an extra day of study each week.

Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer.

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