What It’s Like to be a 40-year-old First-year Student

'It’s never too late to go back. You never know what you’re capable of until you try'

Lynita Reid and her daughter Kaitlyn outside the UConn Stamford campus building

Lynita Reid and her daughter Kaitlyn outside the UConn Stamford campus building. (Ashley Jahnke/UConn Foundation)

It’s not easy being a 40-year-old first-year student, especially while raising four children and holding down a job.

But Lynita Reid took the plunge and enrolled at UConn Stamford three years ago. She was nervous but found that going back to college gave her a profound sense of confidence as well as new friends and great career prospects.

“It had been 20 years since I had taken any classes and I just wondered if my brain would function the way it used to,” she says. “But I knew I could do hard things. I mean, I was raising four kids without any family nearby.”

Along with her own tenacity and her husband’s support, Reid says a scholarship helped make her dream of returning to college possible.

“As a mom of four with a mortgage, any help I get is huge because it helps reduce my student loans,” she says. “It was super exciting to receive the Telep Family Scholarship. I was not expecting to get it.”

Reid’s college education initially began after high school. She studied sports medicine at a junior college in Southern California, where she grew up. She had intended to transfer to a four-year school, but her plans were interrupted when she decided to become a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Venezuela.

“After that, I got married and decided to start my family,” she explains.

She and her husband, Ryan, eventually settled in Norwalk, where they have raised their children, who now range in age from 10 to 18. Reid took a position as a receptionist and office manager at a doctor’s office.

In the back of her mind, she always wanted to finish her degree. Her husband kept encouraging her to apply and helped her with the college application.

“I thought ‘OK, if I get in, I’ll go.’ I was shocked that I got in but very pleased,” she says.

She says she’s met relatively few older students on the Stamford campus but has adjusted well and made some new friends.

“It’s fun because I get to learn from this younger generation now and they get to learn from me as well. It’s just different perspectives,” she says. “The professors love that because it brings up different points of view when you’re having class discussions.”

“It’s good for me because I can keep up with what’s going on now and what these 20-somethings are facing right now in our society and how life is so much different than when I was their age,” she adds. “It’s refreshing and broadens your mind.”

She’s majoring in marketing, as is her daughter, Kaitlyn, who is a sophomore on the same campus. It’s been hard work, but Reid is proud to report that she is carrying a 3.8 GPA and plans to graduate in December. After that, she is considering working in the marketing side of the advertising industry. She encourages anyone considering returning to college to take the plunge.

“You don’t have to be 18 and just out of high school to go to college,” she says. “It’s never too late to go back. You never know what you’re capable of until you try.”