Author Topic: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?  (Read 12508 times)

The Pigeon

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Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« on: March 05, 2016, 05:30:05 PM »
Howdy,
I'm nearly 9(!) -count 'em- 9 months post-FIRE, well, maybe not "early" as I'm 54, but I'm retired. I've been busier than I've ever been, but doing tasks I want to do* instead of tasks I'm forced to do. Yay!

I've always dreamed about going to music college for a BA. Now opportunity knocks--I have the time, and I have the desire, (if I can get accepted).

This would be, obviously, an enrichment/accomplishment experience rather than a career-oriented thing. I'm already a professional musician and am quite familiar with the "pay" scale. ha ha.

My question is about full-time college workload at a later age. I was always good in school, but it seems it's harder to learn efficiently at my age now. Have any of you gone to college at a later age, and were you able to cope with a full time student workload?

I have other discouraging thoughts about how much college costs (it's an expensive program) versus focused self- and private teacher-guided learning. I've learned tons on my own, but I feel I might reach my goals at a much faster pace with a structured immersion in the topic that the school would offer.

I hope some other older folks can chime in with their experiences!

-The Pigeon

*except laundry. Ugh.

Cherry Lane

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2016, 08:11:04 PM »
Hi, Pigeon.  I haven't done this, yet, but I do plan to go back to school once I FIRE in ~2 years.  Since I have similar questions to you, I'm mainly posting to follow.

mxt0133

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2016, 09:20:07 PM »
My mother went back to college for a BS in nursing full time at the age of 56.  It took her 2 years to get an associates, after which she got a full-time job and went to school part-time to complete a BS for another 3 years.  She like me always thrived in a class room setting so for her even though things don't come as easily for her as it used to, it was doable.  If you are actually interested in something you will learn no matter what age you are, assuming you are of sound mental health.  Plus you don't have other distractions, like a job.

I still remember her telling me a story where she walked in to one of her classes for the first time and everyone thought she was the professor.  It's never to late to learn.

misshathaway

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2016, 01:45:51 AM »
I did this the first time I tried to FIRE, which was in 2005. I was 47 then. I had been working as a programmer for years but with a Psych BA. I wanted a better math and CS grounding.

I got an associates in CS for cheap at a local community college and then went to UMass for the CS BS. I had 2 semesters to go when the 2008 stock market crash hit. I was too scared to continue which is still a big regret. I went back to work and what I had learned did help in structuring code, problem-solving systematically, and being exposed to newer development environments and approaches.

I had much more of a problem with myself than I did with other students. Even at 47 there was a marked slowdown in absorbing material. It was frustrating. I had to work much harder than I would have thought, but it was doable, except for Discrete Math which I never adequately conquered.


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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2016, 02:45:24 AM »
My question is about full-time college workload at a later age. I was always good in school, but it seems it's harder to learn efficiently at my age now. Have any of you gone to college at a later age, and were you able to cope with a full time student workload?

I FIREd at age 45 then did a Master's degree full time starting 4 months after I stopped work. As my Master's was in the same field as my profession of the previous 20 years (Project Management) and it was so soon after finishing work, I didn't really have any difficulties with the work load or the material. Primarily because of my familiarity with the many of the topics covered, I only spent about 20 hours a week on average to do all the work to a reasonably high standard. If anything, I found it to be a really good segway between a full time work load to an ER lifestyle (which I am now enjoying very much).

I continue to "study" topics that interest me now (eg. web programming and economics), but not through any educational institution as I do not require any certification of what I have learned and I find the internet is a bottomless pit of information (and misinformation!) on any topic I choose. The research skills I learned doing my Master's has come in very useful sorting out the informational wheat from the chaff.

I'm not sure if this is of any help for someone wanting to study music, which I expect would be difficult to learn in isolation, but I offer up my experience in any case.

rob/d

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2016, 04:36:01 AM »
 I'm going back to school .
 There are lots of " quickie " courses here in the U.K . which can be very rewarding .
 Bricklaying is my first one i'll be going on in august , short course , reasonable price , usefull to me .
 My spanish needs brushing up so that too.
 Pick up a college prospectus and see what interests you .
 My dad went to university at 50 to get his engineering degree and at the time i couldn't see the point as he was SO old !
 He ended doing very well at the water company he worked for , his effort was rewarded and his only regret was not doing it sooner .
« Last Edit: March 06, 2016, 04:43:49 AM by rob/d »

Romag

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2016, 09:00:52 AM »
I want to do this. I have four years of Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits that will cover tuition/fees/books plus a stipend. I didn't work very hard or learn very much in getting my undergrad degree, but loved graduate school and did very well in a master's program. My degrees are in History and International Affairs.

I've though about going for a Ph.D but I am not really interested in the narrow focus and somewhat obsessive nature of writing a dissertation. I have thought about doing a master's in History or Anthropology but lately have been thinking about doing another undergrad degree in Classics or a foreign language that I don't already know - purely to enjoy learning something new.

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2016, 03:46:59 PM »
After I retired I was accepted into a degree in Fashion Design - something I had always wanted to do. I was really surprised to be accepted, as there are always many more people who want to do it than places. It was great, but I only did it part time because I wanted to be doing other things as well. Unfortunately, they changed the course and dropped the degree, so I couldn't finish it (I could have if I had changed to full time, but my father got cancer, so I didn't), but I really enjoyed it, and learnt some things. In a number of the classes, I was more able than the other students and I certainly didn't find that my brain was slower!

I might have felt as if I was depriving someone else of the opportunity, but the place I did it accepts everyone who meets their criteria - even though it is usually only 20 of over 500.

BuildMyFI

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2016, 12:51:08 AM »
I was working in a tutor center for Math and Science subjects. I came across some older students, could be in their 40s and 50s. They needed a lot of help, but they also worked extra harder in school work compare to other younger people as I could tell. Although some seemed pretty frustrated after awhile, some others seem pretty cheerful and happy to be in school. Workload is much for sure, but if you go back to school just for the fun of it, I think you will have less pressure compare to those who try to earn a degree to get a job or a better job.

 I also had a classmate in his 50s - 60s look like in my Engineer Physics and Calculus classes. He did Physics 1 and 2, Calculus 1,2,3 but he didn't go for Physics 3 as long as I was still there. I did ask him why he didn't pursue the last Physics class. He told me that he thinks it was enough for him. However, he landed a part-time tutor job for lower level Math, where I used to work. After all, I think he enjoyed being in school to meet and teach people if possible, not really for a degree but to not stop learning.

SunnyMoney

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2016, 06:14:07 PM »
My question is about full-time college workload at a later age. I was always good in school, but it seems it's harder to learn efficiently at my age now. Have any of you gone to college at a later age, and were you able to cope with a full time student workload?

Yes I have gone back to college several times but not quite the way you describe.  The first time I took college courses I took a 80% course load (i.e. 4 courses instead of the 5 that would be considered full-time) and I took them as an auditor rather than for grades.  This had several advantages.  1) Cheaper.  Auditing is usually a fraction of the cost that a graded student would pay.  2) You don't have to do assignments and tests.  If you want to do them, then fine but you don't have to do them.  The main disadvantages are auditors are usually the last to get into a course so if the course is popular you probably won't get a spot.  Also you don't get the proof of your skill that a transcript would give you - keep that in mind if you think you need the degree for 'credibility' later on.

Being an auditor was much more relaxing and enjoyable than taking a course for grades.  I felt I had the freedom just to learn for the sake of learning and I could blow-off the parts that weren't interesting to me.

I have also done several MOOCS (e.g. coursera.org).  These have all been great, high-quality experiences and I will be doing more in the future.  The ones I have done were free and were paced to follow an in-class group of students that were doing the course in real-time.  I really like the video aspect of the lectures because I can go back and review the material when I need to - perhaps when I'm doing an assignment or studying for a test.  Having other students doing the course along with you is nice because you can get a fairly lively forum community that you can ask questions of.  Sometimes the lecturer provides official teaching assistants.

Put your anxiety about learning efficiently at an advanced age to rest.  I found my mind is better at absorbing and understanding information now than it was when I was 18-24.  My life experience helps me put new information into the larger context of the subject so I grasp how it all fits together now more than I did when I was younger.  Plus, I am better at spotting the irrelevant details and quickly chuck that stuff out so it doesn't clutter my mind.

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2016, 01:02:37 AM »
I've contemplated going back to college several times.

My biggest reason for not, right now, is having to stay in one place to do so (not interested in an all online thing).

Traveling full time and attending classes in one location is mutually incompatible. For now, I've chosen the former, but wouldn't surprise me at some point if part of the reason we settle somewhere is to take classes there.  :)
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retired?

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2016, 06:37:23 AM »
Don't worry about the workload.  Just take longer.

I'm not sure about 2nd bachelor's degrees, but masters are usually around 36 credits.  If it is at a school different than your undergrad, it might require 60 credits since they often have rules about "residency", and, since the BA is usually about 120 credits they want a certain amount there since it will be their name on the diploma.

I wouldn't do a quickie route since, as you said, this is not career related and for enjoyment/enrichment.  But, you probably don't want to spend the equivalent of 60 credit hours.  A grad degree may be the way to go given you are a musician.

As an example, I have thought about writing short stories.  I would do an MFA (fine arts) rather than enroll in an English BA program.

Finally, there are many 'continuing ed' programs....no degree, but could be what you are looking for.

Dee18

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2016, 09:36:44 AM »
Check to see if any universities near you offer free tuition for seniors.  My undergrad uni did, although only for two classes at a time. 

JohnGalt

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2016, 10:20:48 AM »
I kick around the idea of entering a PhD program - but only under circumstances where, at the very least, my tuition is waived for being in the program.  Most likely, I would also look for a research position that comes with a stipend so I could use it as a few years to let the 'stache grow a buffer.

freeat57

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2016, 06:06:43 PM »
I did.....in a sense.  I taught college for 3.5 years after I had been FIREd for two years.  I absolutely loved teaching and working with students.  On the other hand, I hated the administration of the university and thought they were very wrong-headed in their priorities and decisions! (Don't get me started....)  From my view of things, I'll say that college is rather different today than it was back in the 1980's when I was an undergrad.  The advent of technology in the classroom has changed the game a lot.  Much more of the work is done outside the classroom and does not involve a textbook.  There is online homework, which can be both better and worse than the old pencil and paper problems at the end of the chapter.  In a lot of cases, the textbook is an ebook with embedded video and interactive illustrations.  Quite a few of my students came to class with only an iPad.  I made powerpoint templates of my notes, which they downloaded and took notes on with a stylus.  Some classes had media assignments in which students researched, wrote and produced a documentary or instructional video.  There are "clickers" and other in class polling and interactive technologies.  (I am not talking about media or journalism classes!)  In STEM subjects, much more seems to be expected now in the way of internships, research experiences, professional shadowing, etc. than when I was in school.

All that being said, many of them seemed to be having a lot of fun doing all that and I did too as the prof.  My school was promoted as being ahead of the curve as far educational technology goes, but I'm not sure about that.  I have not had the chance to compare. 

My best suggestion would be to go and visit some classes in your school of choice and see what it is like.

The Pigeon

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2016, 09:05:59 PM »
Update:
I have submitted an application!
Whether or not I can get accepted, remains to be seen.
And, if accepted, if I can manage the workload and learn.
BUT, as they say, you regret the things you didn't do, so if I don't try, I'll never know.

The funniest thing is they required a high school transcript. It was almost 35 years ago! I was afraid they wouldn't have it any more. After all, that was pre-PC days. (My high school did have one of those room-sized computers that read punch cards).

Whether accepted or declined, I'm OK with it. If I am accepted, I will learn a hell of a lot in a short amount of time. If not, I'm still have my self-directed track of learning.

So... Thanks for your insights, I will update when I hear more from the school!

-The Pigeon

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #16 on: May 08, 2016, 04:01:48 AM »
Update:
I have submitted an application!
Whether or not I can get accepted, remains to be seen.
And, if accepted, if I can manage the workload and learn.
BUT, as they say, you regret the things you didn't do, so if I don't try, I'll never know.

The funniest thing is they required a high school transcript. It was almost 35 years ago! I was afraid they wouldn't have it any more. After all, that was pre-PC days. (My high school did have one of those room-sized computers that read punch cards).

Whether accepted or declined, I'm OK with it. If I am accepted, I will learn a hell of a lot in a short amount of time. If not, I'm still have my self-directed track of learning.

So... Thanks for your insights, I will update when I hear more from the school!

-The Pigeon

Awesome! Good luck Pigeon! This is a crazy big step; I'm sure you won't regret going for it!

Secretly Saving

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #17 on: May 08, 2016, 10:00:05 AM »
I'm excited for you.  I hope you get accepted!  Keep us posted!

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #18 on: May 09, 2016, 01:16:51 AM »
I personally couldn't handle going back to University to do coursework however I am contemplating going back to do more research. I much prefer self directed learning, so for me I'd only do back if I could do a PhD in exactly the topic that I want to do and get access to a small scholarship (stipend). At this stage I'm too burnt out to consider it, but it's a possibility down the track.

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2016, 08:58:50 AM »
I started college again at the age of 33. I'm finishing my associates this semester and plan on keeping on working on my bachelors. I'm not post FIRE but I'm a nontraditional student.

The answers to your question depend on you. How much effort do you need to put in to learn new things? That's the effort you'll need to put in for school when it comes to the skill based stuff. If it's just mental regurgitation then develop that skill as well, it's not quite learning IMO but some classes will require it.

Guesl982374

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #20 on: May 11, 2016, 07:03:46 AM »
I knew a family friend who in his mid 60s went back to school for this associates degree after he retired from 40+ years as a mechanic in the mid 1980's. He had taught his children the importance of higher education and 'forced' them to go to college. It was his way of fulfilling a lifelong dream and following through on his advice to his kids. I don't believe he ever "used" his degree.

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #21 on: May 15, 2016, 11:51:20 AM »
I have been taking a few courses since ending my full time job last year. Two big takeaways for me 1) It is a great way to keep stretching your mind, exercising the old cranium is good. 2) it's fun to interact /watch the younger students- some just want to do the minimum they can to get a passing grade while I try to get every morsel of knowledge I can- cause I paid for the class(tuition is more than the old days) and I am going to get my moneys worth.

The Pigeon

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #22 on: June 29, 2016, 11:45:28 AM »
So... UPDATE!

I've been accepted as a student! It only took 40 years, but I'll finally be pursuing a BA in music! So things are a-gonna change. I am looking forward to the opportunity to immerse myself in learning, and hope I can keep up. I plan to start on a part-time student basis, just to see how to best balance study and life. I'd hope to not have to impact my current bands & performance schedules, but that remains to be seen.

It should be an interesting journey. I hope I can adjust to having a schedule again. I've just passed the 1-year FIRE mark, and have so enjoyed the (for the most part) freedom-from-schedule.

So, cool! I'm a half-century-plus-old college student!
:-)

-The Pigeon

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #23 on: June 29, 2016, 06:07:57 PM »
Wow.  Congrats are in order.  Bravo!

As a side note - University of WA here in Seattle allows you to audit any class for free once you reach 60.

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #24 on: June 29, 2016, 06:08:57 PM »
That's so excellent!  Congrats Pigeon!  :D
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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #25 on: June 29, 2016, 08:13:18 PM »
My day job involves teaching a fairly challenging class, which awards graduate credit--all of the students are adults and most are over 50 (I have had a couple over 80!) They do just fine even though they are new to the field. What they may lack in easy memorization skills they make up for in organization and self-discipline, as well as perspective. Enjoy yourself--I have a feeling your professors will enjoy you!

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #26 on: June 30, 2016, 06:38:19 AM »
This doesn't really help OP but here in MN the Senior Citizen Education Program allows anyone 62+ to go to school for free if you are just attending class (auditing) or $10/credit if you actually want to get credit toward a degree.

I've thought about this being something that might be interesting at some point.

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #27 on: July 01, 2016, 10:45:34 AM »
Congratulations, Pigeon!  Very exciting!

I have gone back to school at 47 and I'm actually doing better academically than I did when I did my first two degrees.  I'm sharp and motivated and love it.

I had always wanted to be a leisurely academic, and so am committed to going part-time for now, but it's a really wonderful way to live this being professional student. 

Best of luck!  I am excited for you.

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #28 on: July 01, 2016, 12:42:54 PM »
Doesn't hurt to try and see if you get any scholarships or look into any free money that might be available. 

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #29 on: July 01, 2016, 04:03:44 PM »
Awesome, congrats!

I'm currently working FT at age 40 and taking classes for fun PT through my employer's education assistance program.  Just wanted to throw that out there as an option worth looking into for those of you who still have jobs.  I have to cover my own books and fees, but they pay tuition, which is the bulk of the cost anyway.  Someone else already mentioned working PT for a university, which is also a good option for people who want to take classes on the cheap.

I'll be "semi-retired" next year and will be working PT for an employer that offers me the option of taking classes as a perk.  Still haven't decided what I want to do next.  Maybe I'll go for some music or art classes too!  Will be interesting to see how this goes, but I think this PT work, PT school gig might be the best of all possible worlds.  I can enjoy the romantic notion of living like a "poor student" without the stress of actually being poor. ;-)

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #30 on: July 08, 2016, 07:17:59 AM »
I always thought that you could sit in on a class at a university of college for free.  Obviously you couldn't do labs or get credit without paying but I didn't think that it was a problem to just sit in.

I guess this is what auditing is although my thought was that it was unofficial.  Just go and learn...

Metric Mouse

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #31 on: July 08, 2016, 07:21:53 PM »
I always thought that you could sit in on a class at a university of college for free.  Obviously you couldn't do labs or get credit without paying but I didn't think that it was a problem to just sit in.

I guess this is what auditing is although my thought was that it was unofficial.  Just go and learn...

But then how would you know which $200 dollar book that you'll never open to buy?

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Re: Has anyone gone (back) to college post-FIRE?
« Reply #32 on: July 09, 2016, 05:25:39 AM »
I always thought that you could sit in on a class at a university of college for free.  Obviously you couldn't do labs or get credit without paying but I didn't think that it was a problem to just sit in.

I guess this is what auditing is although my thought was that it was unofficial.  Just go and learn...


Auditing costs the same as full tuition at every institution where I've taught. Shows on a transcript,too. At public institutions it may be free for senior citizens.


Don't just show up unannounced, especially now with heightened security concerns. But it may be possible to approach a professor informally. Present it as wanting to visit to see if you want to go back to school and you'll likely get a yes. Can't do that for a whole term, of course.