College Life Does Not End At 25

Most adult learners enter college with the mindset that they are marginal. They feel that they are not part of the mainstream culture. For some of them, they think that it is about playing a competitive game to gain a special rank in order to reach college education imaginable. There are times that these adult students feel unbefitting, considering that they already have adult responsibilities. Many adult students reported issues and others found institutional insults where they saw their age as a barrier.

Cross  noted that adult students who are 25 years and older face three kinds of barriers before enrolling in postsecondary education: situational, dispositional, and institutional. For this age group, situational barriers refer to having lack of knowledge about the campus resources and services, as well as personal mobility, health problems, and other responsibilities. Dispositional barriers are often perceived as beliefs regarding their ability to be successful, as well as their feelings of a sense of belonging while attending college. Lastly, institutional barriers often manifest themselves through inflexible class schedules, campus accessibility, and intricate enrollment and financial aid procedures.

Mature learners are found to spend more time in studying. They are more focused and take their education more seriously than the average college student. Thus, with their level of motivation and their special needs, these mature students expect universities to provide flexible agendas and teaching that are suitable for their age level. With this, higher education institutions should continue to develop and implement practices and policies that target an extremely broad adult student population. By not being aware of the specific support and resource needs of the older adult learners within higher education institutions, these institutions may be limiting or decreasing their level of success.

It was found out that having a community of academic and social support while attending college provided returnees a sense of belonging or connectedness, not only within their classrooms but also influenced their understandings of the social climate of the institution). However, evidence shows their age alone may prevent them from reaping the benefits offered by an all-encompassing education. Similarly, other human factors associated with ageism—such as color, race, location, and economic marginalization—can complicate the situation of older students.

In 2016, while the first graduates of junior high school still have to enroll to senior high school, the College of Teacher Education of Occidental Mindoro State College opened a section for college freshmen. As expected, they were all returnees and graduates of the old basic education curriculum. They were of ages 15 or 16, the usual age for freshmen who are graduates of the old curriculum for basic education. However, many were student-returnees, who were aged 25 years old and above. Afraid that they would be the last batch of freshmen to be admitted, they returned to school and enrolled as college freshmen.

At present, these student-returnees are of ages 28 to 35 and now on their third year in college. It was also found out that some of them are already married and having a hard time balancing roles of being a student, a wife and a mother at the same time, taking into account the voluminous tasks of a teacher education student. With their present condition and considering their ages, these adult undergraduates may have encountered a vast amount of neglect in terms of their learning interests and styles.

According to Simi & Matusitz, universities attempt to fulfill the needs of adult learners, but a certain number of them disregard those adult students when it comes to public policies and objectives, making them more invisible. Thus, it is vital for college staff to find and create more options for effectively engaging older students in the college environment. While ageism, in terms of social closure, usually describes workplace discrimination, the concept has scarcely been applied to older college students.

Adult learners mandate that colleges improve educational policies to embrace originality, the knack of being flexible, and the enthusiasm for approving a new model that is fit for their diversity. To engage mature students requires professors to comprehensively grasp their learning styles by training them to gain the knowledge, talents, and abilities for finishing a degree. Professors must give incessant praise to sway them to stay in school as well as search for groundbreaking ways to assist how they learn. Their presence also helps others learn since they bring prior knowledge and real world experiences to the classroom.

It is in this premise which makes this analysis important. To understand the college experience of older adult learners would mean investigating the problem which is one of missed opportunities. Although substantial attention has been paid to the development of transition programs including career pathway programs for youth, much less thought has been paid to the services and resources that will support the older adult learner’s college experience. The researcher believes that understanding the college experience of older adult learners can provide insight into how institutions can better recruit and support these students.


  • Cross, K. P. (1981). Adults as Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Deutsch, N., & Schmertz, B. (2010). Starting from Ground Zero: Constraints and Experiences of Adult Women Returning to College. Review of Higher Education, 34(3), 477-504.
  • Kasworm, C. E. (2010). Adult Learners in a Research University: Negotiating Undergraduate Student Identity. Adult Educ Q, 60(2), 143–160.
  • Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2012). Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Simi, D. & Matusitz, J. (2016). Ageism Against Older U.S. College Students: A View from Social Closure Theory Interchange. Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht, 47, 391-408.
  • Wyatt, L. G. (2011). Nontraditional Student Engagement: Increasing Adult Student Success and Retention. J Contin High Educ, 59(1), 10–20.          
07 July 2022
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