by Lazar Jovic

UMPI YourPace Contributor

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – In the life of many teenagers, turning 18 means going to college. The next four years are filled with lectures, exams, and essays. Of course, there is a brighter side. 

There are sports clubs, drama clubs, and student exchange programs that can take you all the way to Japan.

However, this is not happening for many high school seniors. According to the U.S. Bureau of  Labor Statistics, among recent high school graduates aged 16 to 24, around 60 percent were  enrolled in college in October 2023. The situation is similar in Ireland. According to the 2022 Education at a Glance report by OECD, 63 percent of 18-24-year-olds are in  education in Ireland. In other countries, the percentage of college students is much lower.

In recent years, continuing education has become more popular. It is used to describe special programs for non-traditional students, often adults.

Today, many who don’t go to college after high school don’t give up on higher education. Some decide to put a framed degree on their living room wall decades after they leave high school.

Shigemi Hirata is an example. Born in Japan in 1919, Shigemi is featured in the Guinness Book Of World Records as the oldest university graduate. She received her degree in 2016 when she was 96.

David Prosser, 64, lives in England. He completed his bachelor’s degree in geography in 1981. However, literature and history are his passion. He started his studies again in 2009.

The greatest fear was “driving through the college gates the first time,” he recalled. Like many students his age, he said the studies were “refreshing and enriching.” He noted that returning to college can be intimidating.

“Just have a go and don’t confuse it with Judgement Day or listen to the naysayers,” he said.

Pam Tomilson, 45, from Australia, graduated from high school in 1997.

“I was a terrible student, but when I decided I wanted to be a pilot, I chose to redo a year of my education and move from  the country to the city,” she explained.

Her greatest challenge was self-confidence, but was surprised when her fellow students provided support.

“I knew I would enjoy the learning, but I never thought I would make lifelong friends,” she said.

She encouraged people considering a return to college to enroll immediately.

“Just go for it,” she encouraged.