August 1, 2012 | | Leave a comment The topic of seniors going back to college reminds me of a great scene from Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). A mature Kathy Bates is about to pull into an open parking space she’s been waiting patiently for. Suddenly, two young women cut her off and steal the spot. They laugh, “Face it, lady, we’re younger and faster!” Fed up, Kathy Bates then rear-ends their car six times. When the girls, in shock, ask what she is thinking, she replies, “Face it, girls, I’m older and I have more insurance.” Too many seniors consider college a pursuit for the young, the energetic, and the quick. What many of them fail to understand is that, while aging may decrease some of your abilities, it also makes you a more effective student. Here are five advantages seniors find when they decide to go back to college: 1. More experience to draw from They say you can’t create in a vacuum. The same is also true of learning. Consider your average, twenty-year-old student sitting in a lecture on Early Childhood Development. When this student hears concepts about how and why toddlers behave the way they do, she has very limited experience to apply to that concept and truly understand it. She may have experience with other people’s babies, but it’s shallow at best. A mature woman in that same lecture, on the other hand, who has been through the experience of giving birth to and raising children has a deep well of experience to apply to the concept being learned. Her understanding, at least on an intuitive level, may exceed that of the instructor. Whether you are a senior who has been in the working world for decades or one who has had the rich experiences that come from homemaking and child-rearing, you come into college with a breadth and depth of experience that your younger counterparts can’t even fathom. 2. More focus At the beginning of their adult lives, young adults have a lot–maybe too much–on their minds.The Young Adult Development Project at MIT recently found that in most college-age young adults their brains are still busy pruning and adding neurons; the human brain isn’t even fully built until around age 25. This explains why so many students seem to be flying from one pursuit (“tonight’s party”) to another (“gotta update status on Facebook”) several times a second. Their brains aren’t yet ready to concentrate. But seniors’ brains are. Even on a practical level, seniors don’t have the distractions that most young adults have to worry about. Married seniors do not have the relationship-related anxieties that their younger counterparts have to deal with. Beyond that, seniors typically do not have the anxieties of picking the right career, landing that big job, or starting their adult life. They’ve already done it, and their only reason for being in school is because they want to. You take off all that pressure and you have a student who is revved and ready to learn. 3. Less need to socialize Tied into all the concerns of young adults is the need to seek out the companionship of others. But seeking out companionship is a time-intensive task. You have to hang out where other people are, fish for friends or potential mates, attend parties and dinners, and participate in activities with other students, all in hopes of not being left out of the social scene. Seniors, already having a loyal abiding circle of friends, are freed from all this. And if you don’t have to worry about maintaining a social status, what do you do with all your time? You make it to every lecture and lab. You get your homework done on time. You do extra credit. In short, you’re free to be a great student. 4. Continuing mental capacity Studies have long confirmed that the human brain continues to grow and develop well into old age, as long as it is given the right conditions to continue to grow and it isn’t overtaken by a disease. This means, as long as you keep those brain exercises up (and college is a great way to do that), your brain can keep up with any twenty-year-old’s. But yours doesn’t have to waste bandwidth wondering if that girl or guy across the room likes your new jacket. 5. Better financial cushion Many college students have nothing to their name. They live from one Pell Grant or paycheck to the next. Making sure they have enough cash to stay fed, housed, and studying is a major occupation for most of these young adults. Seniors, on the other hand, have a foundation of savings accounts, retirement accounts, property, and insurance with which to cushion their college expenses. If they don’t have to work, seniors have only their coursework to worry about. Again, it’s one less distraction that helps them to be better students. Are you a senior going back to college? What influences played into your decision to go back? What advantages have you experienced in your courses? Tell us in the comments below!