At Grand Valley State University on the banks of Michigan’s Grand River in 2014, septuagenarian Michael Nicholson graduated with a master’s degree. But far from being the crowning achievement of a late bloomer, the Kalamazoo resident’s triumph marked the pinnacle of a staggering academic career. For more than half a century, Nicholson had been a student in higher education, amassing some 30 degrees in total. He learned a lot along the way, and the retiree is more than happy to share some knowledge with those setting out on an academic path.
In the early 1960s, when 77-year-old Nicholson was first starting further education, attending college was not as common for Americans as it is today. But fast forward to 2018, and U.S. Government figures show that about 40 percent of the country’s youth are in higher education. Indeed, even though many believe that the jobs market is becoming saturated by overqualified graduates, some 20 million university students will commence their educational careers in the States.
For most of these learners, college will be a relatively brief experience. After earning a bachelor’s degree, the majority of graduates will leave academia to find their way in the outside world. And although some dedicated individuals will stay on in education to study for master’s and even Ph.D.-level qualifications, few modern academic careers last longer than a handful of years.