Not their first time around the block

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First, let me introduce myself: I am a 40-year-old returning student here at Skyline College that is truly enjoying his experience. The thought occurred to me that I should take some time out to explain a few facets of my experience here thus far. There are various social pitfalls and advantages involved with being an older student at Skyline, and hopefully this will help explain them from an older student’s point of view.

You hear the sighs in the classroom as they raise their hand for the fifth time in a row. You see students roll their eyes when an older student can elaborate on an historical event because they were alive when it occurred; it is not that they are so eager for attention that they require a pat on the back from their instructor to make it through the day.

The truth is that most of the older students actually give the rest of the class a chance to answer a question first, and only put their hands up when there are no other hands raised. They do this because they remember what it was like to be a younger student, and they remember how they perceived older people when they were young.

Another reason, this one pertaining to the “they were alive when it occurred” line above, is that this is one of the times in their life where being an older person can be an advantage. When an older student raises their hand, they might actually have an opinion based on the fact that they either were watching the event being discussed on TV live when it happened, or they remember discussing it years ago over coffee in the break room at work. They raise their hand because they feel that perhaps, they have something to contribute to the discussion that a two-dimensional textbook cannot.

In short, when you see an older student on campus, you are seeing either someone trying to further their career, or someone who is fulfilling a life-long dream of attaining an education. Either way, you should take some time out of your day to get to know an older student—they have a lot to offer you.