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Adult learners

Central Oregon Community College female graduate hugging a child


It’s never too late to start or return to college. Whether you are starting school for the first time, returning to finish a degree, or changing careers, you can go to college.

The advice and information for younger students also applies to adult learners. However, you may have extra considerations like working a full-time job and/or supporting a family.

Before going to college

Attending or returning to school is an important decision. All students, including adult learners, should first:

Decide why.

There are many reasons to go to college. Often, adult learners want to update their skills in their current industry or change career paths. Explore career options online and talk with professionals in your chosen career.

Explore colleges, degrees and programs.

Learn more about the types of colleges and degrees and if possible, visit a college near you. Talk with college admission staff to determine the best program or major for your goals.

Know the requirements to get in.

You will need at least a high school diploma or GED to attend college.

Learn how to pay.

Adult learners may also be able to get more money for college through:

  • Independent student status: Most adult learners will not need to report their parents' information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If that’s the case, you may be more likely to receive federal financial aid.
  • Employer tuition assistance: Some companies may help pay for their employees to take classes or get a degree.
  • Scholarships: There are specific scholarships for adult learners and returning students.

Other considerations for adults going to college

Besides taking classes, you may be juggling work and/or family responsibilities. Seek out colleges that offer:

  • Flexible class schedules: Look for classes that meet evenings, weekends or other times. Consider online or hybrid classes that are partly in-person and partly online.
  • Childcare: Colleges may have free or discounted childcare or housing for families on campus. The Oregon Student Child Care Grant can help pay for the cost of childcare while in school.
  • Credit for prior learning: Some colleges may give college credit for things you have learned outside the classroom or on the job. This means needing to take fewer classes to earn a degree. Many colleges also give credit for passing scores on College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams.
  • Support services: Colleges may offer specific programs or resources for adult learners.