Sharon Wu | The Poly Post

College Has No Age Limit

By Victoria Mejicanos, Aug. 30, 2022

I’m leaving the Marketplace, AirPods in when I hear, “She’s 38, what’s she doing here? Wouldn’t you just give up already?” I took my AirPods out in shock. I thought to myself, did I really just hear that right now? Aren’t we supposed to be the accepting and “progressive” generation? Are we seriously not past this?

I looked around open-mouthed, searching for someone else who heard it, wondering if I should say what I was thinking. Two days later, in the same area, I hear another comment, “There’s this 40-year-old in my class who thinks they know everything.” At that point, I was beyond shocked and was now disappointed.

People making the decision to further their education should always be celebrated, regardless of age. Life is all about learning. There are news stories about 80-year-olds finally getting their high school diplomas all the time. Why isn’t the same acknowledgment extended to attending college?

Although I’m not a student-parent, I’m the product of a student-parent. My mom attended Cal Poly Pomona from 2012-2015. She is currently attending Cal State L.A. and is set to receive her master’s degree in a few weeks from now. She is that 40-year-old who should “just give up already.”

Sharon Wu | The Poly Post

I often wondered why my mom decided to go back to school. I’ve asked her multiple times since the beginning of her college journey, and her answer always changes: “To teach you that you can do it,” “Because my kids are watching,” “Because I know I can,” “For higher pay” or “For the respect I deserve as a hardworking teacher.”

No matter what her or other students’ reasons, they shouldn’t feel judgement for their age. These judgments may prevent people who want to go to college from taking that step.

I have many fond memories of being a curious elementary student going to CPP with my mom. The library is where I finished the “Twilight” saga. The Japanese Garden is where I saw turtles for the first time and found peace from the noise.  The classroom is where professors encouraged my mother and I to do whatever our hearts desired.  They welcomed my siblings and I into my mother’s final presentations with a smile and questions about how we liked coming to school with my mom.

Her peers were also welcoming, wondering if we had food, and asking if we were having fun. I won’t glamorize it—there was the occasional questioning stare and some comments about how it was surprising that my mother had children. Students would ask, “Are they going to stay the whole time?” However, not once did any student or professor tell my mother to give up.

When choosing where I wanted to spend the next four years after high school, what made CPP stand out among my choices was its diversity. I knew that I would be able to find people I related to as well as gain new perspectives besides my own. According to a report by U.S. News, “Cal Poly Pomona was the eighth most diverse among regional universities in the West and tenth most diverse in the nation.

There are students of all races, economic backgrounds and ages at CPP. In my short time here so far, I’ve known this to be true, which is why I was so surprised hearing negative sentiments from students.

Older students are common according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Bureau found that the number of 18- to 24-year-olds is down and expected to remain flat  and older students arefor universities and colleges to tap into.

Additionally, according to the U.S. Department of Education, 29% of undergraduate and 77% of graduate students are 25 or older.” This study shows that college campuses are no longer full of 18-year-olds excited for the “college experience.”

Among the number of older students, more than half are parents according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. CPP serves student-parents well, dedicating a website to Parenting Student Support. There is also a Children’s Center where preschool services are provided to all student parents, faculty, staff and alumni.

Without my mother attending CPP, I would not be the open and excited college student I am today. Older students have so much to offer younger students. Those who make the decision to return to school are often rich with life experience and connections.

Instead of looking down on older students, younger students should be asking questions, getting to know that 35-year-old parent or asking them what inspired them to take their next educational step. Students might find that everyone has something to learn from others that can’t be taught or replicated in a textbook or lecture. College has no age limit.

Feature image by Sharon Wu. 

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