What is the average age of college graduates?

What is the ideal age to study for college? We at CollegeOnomics are dedicated to supporting students with their college goals irrespective of their physical age. College students come in all age ranges and life stages and it is difficult to pinpoint an average age for college graduates or college students.

Average age of graduates varies across many age groups

Two Life Stages for College

There are 2 periods in a person’s life that are more suitable for college studies than other times. The 1st one is right after high school, and the other is much later in life after all the kids have grown up and left home.

These are two times when the demands on a person’s time is somewhat lesser. In the 1st case, you would probably still be living with your parents and would likely have minimal family responsibilities. So there would be ample time to focus on college studies.

In the latter case, most of a person’s obligations and responsibilities are generally over, and there are unlikely to be any family obligations that would interfere with college. Even if there are work duties, at this later stage, most work would be more easily manageable.

But the biggest bang for the buck comes in the 1st case, as the person is relatively young, and completing a college degree early on would add fuel to one’s career and help increase the income potential.

Average Age of College Students

It is also true that nowadays, college students come in all the different age groups. Some of them are still teenagers of around 16+, then there are many in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and even their 60’s.

In my case, I completed an equivalent of an associate degree, and then my bachelors while in my 20’s. And many years later, in my late 30’s with a family et al, I completed my Masters degree.

When Should you Start College?

Each phase of life brings upon us a series of different challenges. For example, when one is still single and living with parents, stress about college tends to be high. But a lot of the basic food, clothing and shelter gets automatically taken care of.

Many parents pay for their youth’s college degree, at least until the kid has a suitable income of his or her own.

When a student is in the 20’s or 30’s, and married with kids, college can be very tough to handle. College studies frequently take a back seat while attending to the family, diaper changes for the little ones, loss of sleep and so on.

There is increasing evidence to suggest that a nontraditional student has been the typical undergraduate college student in the US ever since 1999 and over the years until the present times.

Average age of college graduates with a famliy and kids

Money also gets extremely tight here, as most people like to be independent and do not ask parents for help after moving out of their parental home.

Job and College

Having to hold a full time job, while tending to a family and also studying for college is as challenging as climbing the Mount Everest multiple times, over a period of many years until degree completion! Paying for college tuition along with so many other household expenses is not easy at all.

Another point to note is that scholarships are easier to obtain when someone is studying full time. For part time students, there is generally very little financial aid opportunities.

This situation is being faced by many cash-strapped community college students who are forced to take up full time work while enrolled in college as part time students.

For those who are not living with their parents but working full time, it is possible to get scholarships to support college studies, as long as they are a student in the same state where they’ve recently lived in.

Average age of college graduates who are working full time

When speaking with students, I found out that they are able to handle their living expenses and college expenses much better when studying full time, and by working part time.

Some might be lucky enough to have some parental support and therefore be able to study full time, and then have their parents pay some of their living expenses.

Kathryn McCormick

Single parents in their 20’s or 30’s have it the toughest. There is a well documented case of Kathryn McCormick, a single mom of 2 kids who was working as a waitress for about 35 hrs a week, while studying in a community college. One of her kids was going to school and the other one was under the age of 3.

There is a video of how she was struggling to raise her kids, and her financial difficulties, while going to college and working for a minimum wage at a restaurant.

She quit college early on when she got married and moved with her husband who was in the army. Then getting back to completing college became a nightmarish task that she had never imagined.

Kathryn is just one of 1000’s of such single moms who make it through almost impossible odds to raise a family single-handedly while undertaking college.

College Is Challenging

So looking at all these people at different stages in life, it seems like it is never really a great time for college. When one is young and right out of high school, college can be a lot of fun, and even more fun if the parents are paying for the college. Then their kid would not have to keep paying off the student loans for years and years after college graduation.

But the disadvantage at this age is that the student at such a young age is more likely to be naive and inexperienced. Many young college students do not even know what they want to study in college.

So many of them undertake a college degree without even knowing why they are choosing say history over mathematics. There are also many students who start college, but are so unprepared for it that they never complete their college degree.

Best Time for College

Ultimately, it seems that the best time for anyone to do college is when they are most determined and interested in doing so. A strong motivation for getting a college degree can do wonders!

There are going to be some hurdles and challenges along the way, but if you as a student have the perseverance and energy for it, it will be very much possible to complete college.


We at CollegeOnomics have developed our site such that anyone young or old is able to complete college for very little money and in a few short years. Individual circumstances vary and so does the average age of college graduates.

Through our site, we are dedicated to supporting your college goals, so you can complete it in the shortest time possible and for the least amount of money (and with little to no reliance on student loans!).

For more information on completing a college degree in a short time frame, refer to the article on Completing an Accelerated Degree Completion Program Online.

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26 thoughts on “What is the average age of college graduates?”

  1. Life is generally built on the premise of different time scales and each and every person in life have to fix into these time scales so as to fulfill the creator’s will.
    Invariably, I think their is no wrong time to be in the college as long as the right mechanism for success are put in place, but many in their latter days loose focus, thinking of what they would look like when they attend college at a later adult age.

    • Social pressure certainly plays a huge role on how and when people attend college. Thank you for sharing your feedback Carol!

  2. I graduated college when I was 21. It was mission to graduate as soon as I can. (Tuition fees are so expensive so I just wanted to cram all my classes up and be done with it) 

    Personally, I think that the best time to go to college is when it is most convenient to you. Life sometimes hits us and we worry too much about social standing. If I can redo it all over, I would have traveled first and learnt more about myself and what I like and then go to college.

    Still I do not regret it though 🙂

    God works in a mysterious way and life is good. 

  3. Hello Padma, I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. I never was in college. Although I wanted to, my family did not have the money. Now I work, I even have a small baby, I don’t know is it right decision to go to the college. Your article is very inspirational, I will definitely seriously think about it.

    • I’m so delighted that this article inspires you to re-consider going back to college and thereby build you a better career and a good future for your family! Let me know if you need any additional help or information, I’m more than happy to share what I know :))

  4. This was an eyeopening read, in my opinion, and I do agree with you that anyone can go to college no matter how old you are.

    You are never too old to go back to college and learn about something that you would like to pursue. Not only that but when you’re in your late teens/the early twenties you may not know what exactly you want to do. So basically you have plenty of time to figure this stuff out.

    Thanks for sharing this,


  5. You make some really good points. The ideal age for going to college cannot be the same for everyone. Just as you’ve pointed out, and rightly so, there a lot of factors to consider. But I have to say that going to college straight after high school is probably the best time. There’s not too many responsibilities at that point so the student can focus 100%.

    Great post

  6. That’s amazing advice about college.  You really do need to attend when you’re most motivated.  My kids both graduated in their twenties. I’m literally one class away.  I attended in my 30s.  Even with the degrees, my kids are struggling to find jobs that pay well enough to tackle those loans. I think helping people figure out how to obtain a degree with little to no cost is awesome!!

  7. Interesting article!
    When I attended college I was 16, I had no idea what I really wanted to do after school and just joined college and did a subject I was fairly interested in. My mom actually chose my college and course for me because I had ZERO idea and knowledge about college and ending up following a friend and doing the same course as him because it sounded fairly interesting. 

    I have to say I had an amazing time at college but felt like I was forced into it and chose a subject to study without really any life experience into what I really wanted a career in. All I knew was that I wanted to work with animals, I didn’t know in what way, or the different amount of courses available to me at the time. So I went with the first option given to me because I had limited time to pick one to get a space.

    I only know a couple of people from my class that actually got a job within the topic we studied. None of my friends from college has gone on to work in that field. However the older people in the class late 20’s-early 50’s all got a career in that field.

    If I went back to college now that I am in my 30’s I would have chosen a different course. This doesn’t mean to say that all 16 year olds don’t know what they want to do. I just don’t think they are given enough time or education on the subject of colleges and what they can study. They are not given enough time to explore what they actually enjoy because around the age of 14-16 you are always prepping for your GCSE’s rather than thinking about what you want to do in the future. 

    Plus subjects at school are very limiting. I personally think there should be a year after school where students can “study” a variety of subjects at a basic level for free so they can have a taster of what they really might like to do, before having to get a loan or parents having to pay a large amount of money for them to go to college to study something they may in a few months time regret.

    • Yes taking an year after high school to taste-test multiple topics of study is a great idea! Students definitely need some time and space to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives college & career-wise, so true!

  8. Thank you so much for giving me such a wonderful article and through you I understand the importance of studying in college at the right time. I attended college when I was 17, and when I was 24, my graduation was completed. And right after I was with my parents, my college education was over and I think if I could have finished college at the right time then I could have done other things after that. I think when we are staying with parents, we should end our college education right away, and the next time we have a family, the stress and pressure of college will not bother us.

    I hope that many students will think about studying in college at the right time after reading this article.

    • Thank you Shanta for sharing your life experience on college! Life throws so many surprises at us all and I truly believe college should be able to accommodate our circumstances and that it should not be such an uphill battle as it is for many students currently!

  9. Hello Padma, thank you for sharing this article expanding on the average age of college students. I didn’t go to college anyways. I graduated from a Polytechnic some few months ago. Well, there are no specifically average age of college graduates but if we should consider those that went to college immediately after high school, it usually ranges between middle 16+ and early twenties. As for me, I got into Polytechnic when I was a teen and graduated in my early twenties.

    Just like you have said, I too personally would not advise anybody to wait some years after high school before furthering studies. It is best to do it while the zeal is still there because as time goes on, we’d be occupied by so many other things.


    • Thanks so much Mr.Biizy for sharing your heartfelt personal experiences! My best wishes for your education and career :))

  10. It’s my opinion millennials are less engaged to the idea of getting into a college degree program. Do you have any statistical evidence to prove it wrong?

    Life is what we do with it. Everyone has a personal clock set up partially by genetics and in other portion by culture and learning from our own personal experiences. You may never go to school and consider yourself successful or have obtained a master’s degree and not feel so. 

    Scholarships for part-time students is good when (as a nation) you’re looking forward to getting experienced workers professionalized. In Spain for instance, they’ve promulgated a law that allows universities to enroll people to Master’s degree without being degree holders (and carrying at least 5 proven years of uninterrupted experience in a single field). 

    Kathryn McCormick case is really an inspiring one (that is for letting me know about it). A degree shows many things, among them, it shows your capacity and your ability to stay focused on a single goal for long periods of time as well as your determination.

    • Yes Juan I agree! Every student has their own personal clock and the real magic is in helping each person to complete college in a suitable way as per their individual time frame and circumstances. That is exactly the point. Thank you for highlighting this.

  11. Dear Padma,

    I really like your website.

    I am particularly interested in it because I guided several students through similar processes in the 1980’s and 1990’s. I became acquainted with Regents College (now Excelsior), Thomas Edison State College, and Charter Oaks at that time. The students I worked with took some of the CLEP exams too. I really wish I had perfected the process of gaining credit by examination.

    I also became familiar with some of the best test-prep tools (in my opinion) too. Those were produced by a company called “The Princeton Review.” They promoted good test-taking skills and time management. I thought those materials, at least at that time, were a cut above the others.

    About 2010, I helped a college get off the ground. I moved through several positions with it, and retired as provost. One of my hats was that of faculty athletic representative. I had to certify the athletic eligibility of our student athletes. Sometimes they would get in GPA jeopardy. Fortunately, I was familiar with some of the course- and testing-options you described. Since, at one point, I was also the dean of academic affairs, I could point some of those students to these options, and I also had the authority to accept their credits. Several of those courses provided just enough to raise those GPA’s. Those students, and coaches were very grateful for these options.

    I also became aware of the “College Plus” program; however, I think it has now been absorbed into another program.

    It is good to know that your options and information are available in the current educational situation.

    Wishing you the best,

    (Dr,) Randy

    • Thank you Sir! I sincerely appreciate your feedback and am truly delighted to hear about your experience with helping college students with earning credits via testing options. I hope to reach a lot of students so a large percentage of students can complete college in the US the pain-free and easy way.

  12. Thank you for this eye opener on the average age for college graduates.
    Personally, I prefer the idea of getting a college degree right after high school but the motivation and purpose must be there. I think it’s a lot easier that way since at that age, there is usually minimal responsibility thereby, making it easier for the student to focus on studies. An early college degree can also help to build the student’s career better.

    • Thank for your feedback Chris! Yes an early college degree certainly helps boost a person’s career.

  13. I started my first degree at 23 as a mature age student (yes, can you believe that’s considered mature age). I chopped and changed and was working so didn’t finish until I was 39. I have to say even at this age it definitely opened doors and increased my earning potential. I then started a post graduate and finished that at 47. I made the decision to give up a job to finish it (as it had been a dream as a child to become a teacher) and just trust that the money would come and increase even though I was taking time out of the workforce and that it would be considered appealing to an employer regardless of how I intend to use it or what direction I decided to go in.

    • Thank you Martine for sharing your experiences! I know you’ve already completed all your education but its students in very similar circumstances that I very much intend to assist with completing a low cost college degree super fast :))

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