Mature Student Using Digital Tablet In Adult Education Class

Going Old School: How Old Is Too Old for College?

Updated By Patrick Oney on October 21, 2020

No one is too old for college. Is 40 too old for college? Nope. How about 90? No way! Getting a degree is a sensible, valuable goal for those of all ages. Whether it’s time for a new job or you’re working toward a raise, there are many reasons why individuals start college at age 35 or older. In fact, US Census Bureau data showed 12.75% of college students were 35 or older in 2017.1

If you’re in that age group, college may be exactly what you need to take the next step in your life or your career.


In her mid-90s, Nola Ochs made the big decision to move away from her family farm into an apartment at Fort Hays State University in Kansas to finish the remaining credits needed to earn her Bachelor’s degree. After graduating from FHSU with a 3.7 GPA, Nola continued on to earn her Master’s degree at the age of 98, making her the one of the oldest people in the world to obtain such a degree.2

Nora Ochs isn’t the only person who dreamed of going back to school later in life. Both Leo Plass and Dr. Allan Stewart thought lifelong learning was important.

Leo graduated with an Associate’s degree from Eastern Oregon University when he was 99. He had been out of college for more than 79 years.2

After Dr. Allan Stewart retired from dentistry, he opted to return to the classroom in order to keep “mentally active.” At the age of 91, Allan received a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of New England in New South Wales, Australia, and officially became the oldest person in the world to earn a law degree.3


The idea of going back to school may be completely daunting and unfathomable to you, and that’s okay. After all, how old is too old to go to college? Nora, Leo, Allan, and the dozens of other 90-somethings who have gone back to college probably wondered the same thing at some point.

In the end, however, their goals of earning an education outweighed their fear and anxiety. If you’re interested in going back to school at 40, 50, or 60+ years old, seek inspiration from hundreds who found success doing the same.


Yes, you can go to college at any age. In fact, the ages of students going to college range from high schoolers, around 15 years old, to those who are retired, around 90 years old.

Although the majority of college students are 20–24 years old,1 online attendance is growing.4 Plus, the online student population includes students of all ages. About half of online students are 28–38, a third are 39–54, and the remainder are either really young or older than 54.5

Online colleges have become more popular due to the flexibility of class schedules and the pace of the workload, which make it easier for a student to work or have other responsibilities while attending school.

Don’t give up on earning your degree! Not when you can switch to online classes for a new start on education.


There are so many excuses you could use to argue that it’s not the time to start school. However, have you ever listed the reasons why you’re never too old to go back to college? There are many different reasons why people do return to school.

  • 36% of online students started school to transition to a new career field6
  • 32% of students wanted to earn academic credentials in a current field of work6
  • Many wanted to finish what they had once started
  • Others have wanted to keep their minds active
  • Some older students wish to inspire their children or grandchildren and show the value of education


Private colleges or massive universities may not appeal to you as a “doable” option for college. After years in the workforce, raising a family, serving in the military, or pursuing other dreams, you might find yourself wanting a college environment that’s more relatable, flexible, and personal. At Independence University, we offer just that.

Popular among both traditional and non-traditional students alike, Independence University offers an array of Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degree programs that are designed to help you meet your career and educational goals, no matter your age or situation.

As you begin your online classes here at IU, you’ll find that it’s not too late to go back to school, and hopefully, it’s much easier (and maybe even more enjoyable!) than you ever thought. Contact our admissions office today to learn more about the comprehensive degree programs we offer and to request more information about Independence University.


  1. (See Table 5.)