Mature Student Using Digital Tablet In Adult Education Class

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

Updated By Patrick Oney on June 4, 2020

On May 12, 2007, Nola Ochs walked across the stage in her graduation cap and gown to accept her general studies degree with an emphasis in history from Fort Hays State University in Kansas (and graduated with her own granddaughter!). Like her fellow classmates, Nola spent hours hunkered down in her campus apartment writing papers, researching study topics on the internet, completing homework, and drafting up reports. Unlike her fellow classmates, however, Nola was a ripe 95 years old.   Nola is one of the oldest people in the world to graduate from college.

After her husband of 39 years passed away in 1972, Nola made the big decision to move 100 miles away from her long-time family farm into an FHSU apartment to finish the remaining 30 credit hours she 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 oldest person in the world to obtain such a degree. Why did Nola want to earn a higher education at such a late point in life? Why, she wanted to be a professional storyteller on a cruise ship, of course!

Dreams Never Die

Nora Ochs isn’t the only person who dreamed of going back to school and rekindling a passion for education later in life. In 2011, Leo Plass, age 99, graduated with an Associate’s degree from Eastern Oregon University and set the world record (at the time of this writing) for the oldest person to graduate from college. Not long after Leo started his college career in 1932, he dropped out to pursue a lucrative career in the logging industry. His dreams of getting a college education, however, never faded. After learning he was only a few credit hours shy of an Associate’s degree, Leo set his sights back on the college classroom and worked tirelessly to fulfill his lifelong dream.

As Dreams Change, Goals Are Set Anew

While Nora and Leo are prime examples that you’re never too old to earn an education, Dr. Allan Stewart’s story proves that not only is there no age limit to college, but that there’s also no limit to what you’re capable of learning. In 1936, 21-year-old Allan completed his degree in dentistry. After the Australian doctor 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. He has since earned his Master’s degree in clinical science from Southern Cross University, his fourth collegiate degree.

Unexpected lessons that you can learn in college, outside of the classroom.

It’s Never Too Late; You’re Never Too Old

The idea of going back to school may be completely daunting and unfathomable to you-and that’s okay. Nora, Leo, Allan, and the dozens of other 90-something-year-olds who went back to college probably also felt a bit of trepidation at the thought of sitting through lectures, completing often rigorous coursework, and connecting with fellow students who were dozens of decades younger than themselves. In the end, however, their goals of earning an education and pursuing a dream career outweighed their fear and anxiety. If you’re interested in going back to school at 40, 50, or 60+ years old, seek inspiration from the hundreds and thousands of those who found success doing the same.

How to Go Back to School

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.

With college campuses that inspire and encourage learning, small class sizes, and on-campus and online courses, you’ll find that going back to college is much easier (and maybe even much 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. 

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