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What Do I Need to Get Into College Now That I'm 30?

by Maya Black

Many people go to college right from high school, but sometimes life gets in the way and going to college right away isn't possible. If you're in your 30s, settled into work and family life, and wish to go back to school, you're not alone. The American Council on Education says that about 40 percent of college students are adult learners. To get into college later in life, consider some options at your disposal to help to transition and find the right educational fit.

Application and Transcripts

Even though you're an older applicant, you'll still fill out the same application as everyone else. Provide all the information that's relevant to you. As a 30-something applicant, the fact that you won't list a parent or guardian and that you probably won't need housing will alert the college that you're a nontraditional student. Your prospective colleges will let you know whether you should include your high school transcripts in the application packet or have the high school send them directly to the college. Some colleges charge application fees.

Resume and Essay

Some colleges ask adult learners to submit a resume and a personal essay along with the application; submit a standard resume that lists your job history and a personal essay that discusses your education and career goals. Colleges ask for this information to find out what you've been up to since you graduated from high school and to get a feel for whether you'd make a good fit for the community and your proposed major; your resume also will be useful to application reviewers if you apply directly to a college department such as nursing.

Test Scores

Most colleges won't expect you take the SAT or ACT taken by high school students. Many adults enrolling in college for the first time take placement tests such as the College-Level Examination Program, known as CLEP, that awards college credit based on how well you score in subject-matter tests such as English composition, math and social sciences. Some colleges, such as community colleges, also offer in-house placement tests that award college credit based on scores, according to the National College Transition Network. If you don't score well on such placement tests, you may have to take basic 100-level courses alongside incoming freshman.

Letters of Recommendation

Because you graduated from high school at least 12 years ago, your former teachers might not be the best judges of the person you've become, your skills and abilities. So, instead of hunting down your high school teachers, ask your employer to write you a letter of recommendation. You also can ask a member of your sphere of influence, such as your pastor, rabbi or imam, a neighbor or friend who works in your field of interest or even your child's school principal, if you know her well and are on good terms.

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