back to schoolIt’s “Back to School” Time!

It’s probably been a long time since you sat in a classroom. Maybe you think your brain is too old and rusty to learn new things. But actually the reverse is true. It’s important that you continue to use your brain to keep your cognitive abilities and memory sharp. Heading back to school for a class or a whole degree is a good way to keep those neurons firing, and there are plenty of easy—and even free—ways to do it!

Get it for free. There are many financial benefits of aging and free tuition at many colleges is one of them. However, the rules can be varied. Some colleges only offer seniors free tuition for credit courses, while others restrict the privilege to noncredit classes. Some require the instructors’ approval; others depend on space availability. If you can’t get a tuition waiver, you might at least get a discount or be able to audit (no homework or exams) the class at no charge. Regardless, it’s worth checking out.

Take it online. Maybe taking the course in a classroom setting isn’t free, but taking it online could be. Many colleges will let you audit courses online—or even take them for credit—for free. Online courses are also ideal for seniors who, after all these years, may feel self-conscious in a class with a bunch of kids their grandchildren’s age.

For the love of learning. Many colleges have courses specifically designed for more mature students, whether in subject matter or format (more time for questions and discussion). One program that you’ll find at more than 100 schools across the country is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI). Requiring no papers or exams, OLLI classes are taught for the express purpose of learning.

  1. If you can’t get a tuition waiver, maybe you can qualify for a scholarship. Most scholarships are only for younger undergrads, but read the fine print to see if you might be eligible. And there are actually some scholarships specifically for seniors out there.

When was the last time you were in a classroom?  Let us know in the comments!