College graduates come in all age groups and only 50-60% of enrolled students actually graduate college. In my case, I completed an associate degree, and then my bachelors while in my early to late 20’s and a masters at the age of 41. In this article, I will go over the average age at which students graduate 2 yr or 4 yr college, so as to determine the most favorable age groups for graduation success.
23 is the average college graduation age for traditional full time students who start college at about 18 yrs whereas the average graduation age for independent students over 24 yrs of age is about 32.
Traditional full time students are more likely to graduate college within 4 to 6 yrs of enrollment. Though the probability of graduation decreases with the increasing student age at enrollment, there are also advantages to being an older college student.
Since there is a 30-50% of student population at most colleges who are over 24 yrs of age, almost everyone is likely to find atleast a few college classmates who are closer to their own age.
Here are more details about student age and college graduation:
- The highest number of college graduates in a given year in the US are students between the age of 25 to 29. This is likely because of a higher increase in enrollment of college students aged 20-24 yrs.
- Over a third of full time traditional college students drop out in a few years, and some others enter the work force after high school graduation only to re-start college several years later as independent students.
- Some older independent students of 22-30 yrs indicate they have better career success and choice of college major upon delaying college by a few years.
- With many Americans 24+ yrs with college credits but no college degree, there is a strong need for degree completion programs to quickly fill the gap toward graduation.
- The college graduation rate of 46.2% can be much higher if more people are made aware of degree completion colleges.
- A majority of students at the degree completion colleges such as SUNY Empire State, Excelsior or Granite State college are over the age of 25.
- Students 25 and older need additional tools and step-by-step guidance to further reduce college expenses and time to graduation.
- Students enrolled for a bachelors degree are more likely to complete college than those who are enrolled for an associate degree.
- STEM fields, business and healthcare make up a bulk of all majors for college students who graduate with a bachelors or associate degree.
- The number of women enrolling and graduating college each year slightly outnumber the number of men enrolling and graduating college.
- Men make up a majority of engineering and computer technology related bachelors degrees.
- California has the highest number of all college graduates, followed by Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois.
- The percentage of graduates as of 2020 are highest in D.C., followed by Massachusetts, North Dakota, New York and Minnesota.
FINDING A COLLEGE FOR YOUR AGE RANGE
Having classmates in college whom you can easily relate to and make friends with can be very helpful for a good college experience and for completing your college degree quickly and easily.
So it is generally a great idea to find a college that fits your exact age-specific needs. You might also have individual age preferences and those will also help you get more comfortable with the college you enroll in.
There is an excellent article from US News which lists colleges that have students over the age of 25. The top colleges in the list have many older students and the bottom colleges in the list have more of the traditional 18-23 years of age students. So simply go through this list and find colleges for your age plus and minus a few years.
You can also contact the colleges directly and find out more from their alumni students for your preferred age group. If there are colleges near where you live, just visit the campus and talk to some of their students or go to their student office and ask them about the average age of their students.
If you are an older nontraditional student, your most likely best bet is a degree completion college, preferably one of those listed in this article. Some of the degree completion colleges such as Empire State also have multiple campus locations in the NY tri-state area and a few in other countries. If you are in any of these areas shown in this page, check them out with a personal visit to find out more.
If you are interested in finding a degree completion college in some other state, go over this article to find a suitable college that’s near where you live.
FASTER COLLEGE GRADUATION
Many college students assume there is not much they can do other than studying hard and scheduling more classes for faster graduation. But there are many other ways to quickly earn college credits and such credits can easily transfer to most accredited US colleges.
Here is a step-wise strategy for quicker college graduation:
- Find out from your college student office about their credit transfer policies. Also ask senior students and anyone else in-the-know at your college about how to transfer in credits to your college.
- In case you find that your college does not accept much credits by transfer, consider transferring out to a degree completion college for your degree. Most degree completion colleges are extremely transfer-friendly and can easily transfer in all your previous college credits from other colleges, courses and standardized tests.
- Setup a time with a college student advisor and find out from them about which CLEP/ DSST or other third-party accredited courses can be used at your college by credits transfer to your degree. In case you find this to be an uphill battle, once again give serious thought to transferring out to a degree completion college in your state or closer to where you live.
- Write CLEP or DSST exams for some subjects that are part of your current degree curriculum. Also signup to InstantCert for practice tests and flash cards for the test preparation. This article has more information on CLEP/ DSST.
- Take any Saylor or other ACE/ NCCRS accredited online courses and earn even more college credits. Be sure the courses you take are suitable for your current degree curriculum. One way to do this is to compare your degree requirements with the course curriculum listed in the online course. You can also contact you college student advisor and the online course provider for additional clarifications.
- Send the test scores and course transcripts to your college for credits transfer to your degree transcript. Keep a watch on the grades or scores allotted by them upon credits transfer, as it may not exactly match the scores you earned in that course or exam. This will be helpful to you for future reference on which type of courses and standardized tests to choose.
- Next keep a close watch on which of your degree requirements you have already completed so that you can expediently apply for graduation immediately upon meeting all your degree course requirements. Take ownership of this process and proactively keep checking this so you can quickly reach college graduation.
DEGREE COMPLETION FOR NONTRADITIONAL STUDENTS
Nontraditional students are usually older, some of them probably married and with kids of their own.
They have many unique challenges balancing college with a family, full time job and also struggle financially while simultaneously working on completing college.
For older students, degree completion programs are ideal as they are suitable even for working adults and anyone who completed college courses earlier but did not complete their college degree before. These college programs provide many ways for credits transfer and for earning college credits by writing standardized exams and other online courses.
DEGREE COMPLETION FOR TRADITIONAL COLLEGE STUDENTS
As for traditional college students who enroll in college around 18 or 19 yrs of age, there is very little awareness of degree completion programs. Most of these students enter college right after high school graduation. By following a hybrid approach to college by combining full time college followed by transferring to a degree completion college midway, these students can greatly reduce both the time and cost of their US college degree.
MINIMIZING COLLEGE DROPOUTS
In fact, for the one-third of traditional college students who usually dropout of college before their sophomore year, many of them can instead continue their degree at a degree completion college. This way, they can greatly reduce college expenses, and take breaks from college if needed, and still complete college on schedule by earning credits via CLEP/DSST courses and online courses.
Even for those who dropout of college, their best chance of re-entering college and successfully graduating college is via degree completion colleges. For more information, take a look this article titled What Are Degree Completion Programs.
FINANCIAL AID FOR NONTRADITIONAL STUDENTS
Federal grants and aid, state financial aid and internal college-specific scholarships are all available to parttime and nontraditional college students at the degree completion colleges. There is likely a 12 semester credits per term that need to be earned to be eligible for the financial aid in some cases.
There is a much better chance of obtaining higher financial aid at degree completion colleges than at other fulltime colleges, especially for working adults and part time students. Also, since the college enrollment charges are very low and with the flexibility of earning credits affordably via CLEP/ DSST and free or low-cost online courses, the financial aid monies will go a long way in paying for most of your degree completion college expenses.
To get started, here are the financial aid resources for 3 of the top degree completion colleges:
- Empire State College Foundation
- Federal, State Aid and Scholarships at Excelsior
- Federal Student Aid at Thomas Edison
RELEVANCE OF AGE TO COLLEGE GRADUATION
Traditional 18-24 yrs full time college students have the highest probability of graduating college but the next highest probability of graduating college is for 25-29 yrs old students, followed by those in the age range of 30-34 yrs.
The advantage for the 25-34 yrs students is that they are more likely to choose a good college major and are likely to be more motivated to finish college so as to start a career.
Though some 18-24 yrs old students transition smoothly to a good career, this again depends on whether they are really interested in college, their major and the reputation of the college itself. Not all traditional students who graduate college make a successful career for themselves. Many of them are too young to take college seriously. A lot of them enter college at this age due to societal and parental pressure rather than upon exploring their own options and interests.
So rather than quickly hopping to college right after high school, its much more important that students take the time to choose a suitable degree and college major for the best chance of future career success and job satisfaction.
It is true that the sooner a college student graduates, the sooner they can get the right job opportunities, so age at graduation is definitely of some importance. But what is even more important is to have the right mindset for serious college learning and for starting one’s career, irrespective of the age upon graduation.
- Educational Attainment in the United States: 2019
- New State-by-State College Attainment Numbers Show Progress Toward 2020 Goal
- United States Census Bureau – Educational Attainment
- College Graduation Statistics
- College Dropout Rates
- Most Students Age 25 and Older
- At what age did you graduate college?
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