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Am I too old to go to grad school?

Posted on April 1, 2020
Goodwin College students at graduation

One of the most common questions I hear from prospective grad students is, "Am I too old to go to grad school?" My response is always; you're never too old. I earned my master's at age 45, and students in Goodwin's graduate programs range in age from 22-63. Each individual, regardless of age comes to grad school with different expectations, motivations and experiences. What makes the learning process work well, is the diversity of our student population from work and life experience to background and geography. Younger students may bring a vitality that invigorates more mature students while the mature students bring a life experience that younger students may not have yet had. Drexel was recently named an age-friendly university and there are many benefits to age diversity in the classroom and the workplace.

Here are a few things to consider when going back to school after 25:

Is a master's degree harder than a bachelor's?

Yes and no. Yes, the content is more complex, specialized and demanding. Students often use work-related projects for their coursework. Everything is all-purpose, no fluff assignments. The curricula in a grad program are designed so courses are interrelated and build off one another to grow your skillset strategically. There's nothing random in grad school, no filler courses or general education. So though academically, it may be more vigorous, the focus and your passion for the subject makes it fulfilling and exciting, giving you the drive to push through and complete every assignment

How do you handle work, family and school?

Graduate programs across academia are structured differently. Our graduate programs at Goodwin, as well as our Degree Completion Programs for undergraduate studies, are designed for working students and can be completed part-time and online. Other graduate programs are full-time on-campus or have executive models with low residency options. There are options to fit your goals and lifestyle. If you have a demanding job or home life, you should seek a program that offers some flexibility, for example, being able to enroll as a part-time student, take a term off if necessary, and to know the faculty are understanding.

There is no question that there are sacrifices when it comes to going back to school. You can't give 110% to work, be a super-parent, coach little league and find time for your hobbies and go to grad school, let alone perform well. You will have to prioritize certain things in your life to achieve this goal, And if you can't—in all honesty—it may not be the right time.

Success is all about time management. Here's how you can look at the breakdown of expectations in a graduate program:

  • For example, in the Master of Science (MS) in Professional Studies program, a student taking two online courses per term should expect to spend four or five hours in the virtual classroom lectures, three or four hours on readings and discussion boards, and three or four hours on papers, projects per week. Roughly 10-12 hours per week per class, or 20-25 hours per week for two courses.

  • Of course, this is spread out over seven days. So, you may only log two hours a day Monday through Friday. Perhaps you do 30 minutes at lunch, one-and-a-half hours in the evening, and then devote 8-10 hours throughout a two-day weekend.

  • You may have less work due one week than another and can plan your studies and try to get ahead when you know you have something important with work or home coming up.

4 Tips for returning to school after 25

Even if you've determined that you're ready to go back to school, the return to academic life after taking time off has its challenges. Here are tips for going back to grad school:

  1. Getting back into student mode takes time. Remove distractions and find a quiet place to study and work.

  2. You may also need to retrain your brain to read and think critically, refine how you write papers, brush up on APA, MLA or Chicago Style Guides (depending on your institution/program), and work on grammar skills.

  3. Communicate with faculty and advisors because work and life will interrupt. Most are willing to accommodate and may allow an extension on a paper or provide extra time for an exam, as long as you communicate with them.

  4. Take a break. Drexel is on the quarter system; some schools operate on a semester basis, while others on a trimester calendar. Regardless of term patterns, it's essential to take advantage of breaks in between terms or semesters to decompress, give yourself rest and time to recharge.


Going back to school is less about what age you are, but more about where you are in your life and career and how a master's degree aligns with your goals. Whether you're 30, 50, 50 or 60, a master's degree may help you earn a higher salary, gain a promotion, change fields or build confidence in your skills and knowledge.

For example, Nora Kzirian('17), an alumna of the MS in Professional Studies, earned her degree while working full time at Comcast and raising a growing family. You can watch her story to gain insights on how she applied learning to her career straight away and succeeded while balancing work, life and graduate school:



Anne Converse Willkomm

Assistant Clinical Professor

Department Head of Graduate Studies

Goodwin College of Professional Studies

Posted in professional-development-career-tips