Never Say These 7 Things to a Woman Who Goes Back to School

Photo Credit: Clay Banks/Unsplash

Your friend has decided to go back to school. Whether she enrolled in college, entered a degree-completion program, or joined adult-education classes, she needs support.

Going back to school can be challenging, especially if you juggle a job, family obligations, and house chores between courses. You can’t take some of the workload for her, but you can at least be supportive.

Here are seven things not to say to a woman who decides to go back to school.

Who’s Watching Your Kids While You're in Classes?

As many as 71% of independent college students with dependent children are women. Going beyond the fact that almost no one asks the same question to men who decide to continue their studies later in life, it’s rude to suggest that investing in one’s future automatically implies ignoring children. Mother guilt is real, and no woman needs that kind of pressure when she starts a new journey.

At Your Age?

Going back to school after years of pause is intimidating. There’s no need to remind your friend about the age difference between her and most other students. Plus, odds are she has colleagues in the same situation. So, encourage her to build a support network instead of age-shaming her.   

You’re Wasting Money on a Midlife Crisis!

That’s the moment when I hear Maggie Smith’s voice in a scene from Downton Abbey. “Oh, good, let's talk about money.” Your intentions might be good, but the way you share your opinion is rude and can hurt your friend’s feelings. And, by the way, spending money on education is an investment, not a useless expense.

Your Brain Doesn’t Have Study Skills Anymore

Yes, we lose our study habits if we don’t practice enough, and our ability to learn declines with age. But, with the right mindset, your friend can build new learning habits adapted to her skills and life experience. The majority of degree seekers in the U.S. are now adult learners, which is proof that you can improve study skills at all ages.

What Do You Need a Degree for, Anyway?

A degree can help your friend in more than one way. Maybe she wants a better job or feels that further education can help her remain competitive at work. Just because she’s not ready to talk about her long-term plans with you doesn’t mean she doesn’t have any. Why insinuate that her degree is useless? After all, statistics say that college graduates have 57% more job opportunities than non-graduates.

Isn't Your Husband Earning Enough for Both of You?

A degree or having a better job after graduation means more than just the money you can earn. It brings financial independence, but it also helps with self-esteem and may be the achievement of an old goal that your friend has put on hold to take care of other aspects of her life.

My Friend Lost Her Marriage Over This — Take Care!

No one can tell what the future holds. Why assume that school breaks all relationships? Moreover, why plant the seed of doubt in your friend’s mind? It’s a big decision, and your friend likely has discussed the implications with her life partner before taking this path. Your two cents aren’t necessary.

Being an adult student isn’t easy. The workload and the stress of handling school, job, children, and other personal obligations make the journey even harder. Going back to school is an act of courage. Be proud of your friend, and, if you want what’s best for her, show support and encouragement. She’ll need it.


CircleAround is operated by a wholly owned subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA. The site serves adult women nationwide by providing content that is uplifting, thought-provoking, and useful. We make revenue distributions back to GSUSA so they can further their mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

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