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Gifts Ideas for Students Going Back to School in Their 40s

Updated on December 3, 2016
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I'm a business communications coach who teaches writing, speaking, and leadership skills to adults in the midst of a career change.

Do you have a friend in their 40s who is going to college for the first time? Or a family member who's returning to university to finish their degree after taking a few years off? This list of the best back-to-school gifts for mature students will help you find something that shows how much you support and admire that person in your life!

A special gift is a great way yo say "Congratulations" to someone who has decided to go back to school as a mature student.
A special gift is a great way yo say "Congratulations" to someone who has decided to go back to school as a mature student.

What Is a "Mature Student?"

Many universities and colleges define a "mature student" as someone who has been out of full-time, formal education for at least four years. The mature student has strong academic potential, as demonstrated through a variety of achievements and life experiences beyond traditional academics. Mature students are also sometimes called "returning students" or "adult learners." Mature students can range in age from their mid-twenties right up to their sixties and seventies. If your spouse, your sister or brother, your mom or dad, or your best friend enrolled in university, they would likely be classified as a mature student or adult learner.

If you want to support someone who has decided to change gears, switch careers, and head back to school, check out these gift ideas that will surely help them out.

Bags and Backpacks With Wheels

Everyone knows by now that carrying a heavy, lopsided backpack is bad for your body, no matter how old you are. For middle-aged and senior students, wearing a heavy backpack can be even more harmful, especially for folks with arthritis or other aged-related conditions. A heavy backpack is also unhealthy because it can contribute to trips and falls; the heavy, uneven weight on one shoulder can throw people off balance.

Give your friend or family member a lightweight briefcase or backpack with wheels. Wheeled totes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles so you can find something to suit almost any taste, from formal and business-like, to rugged and outdoorsy, to hip and youthful.

Transcription Software

Dictation software is a perfect gift for all students, but it's an especially thoughtful gift for older students. It allows users to take notes and compose essays in rough draft by reading their thoughts aloud while the dictation software transcribes it all. This isn't a foolproof system of note-taking and writing, however. It does take a bit of time to master and some words will be recorded incorrectly, but for the most part, this system allows students to quickly get their main ideas down, and then they can edit the final draft before handing in their assignments.

Back-up Power Source for Laptops and Mobile Phones

To get good grades, many students end up spending long hours on campus completing assignments, doing research at the library, and studying for exams. And that means laptops, tablets, and mobile phones may be prone to dying in the middle of a marathon study-session. A back-up power source is a perfect gift for university students, but especially so for older students who may have family members at home they need to stay in touch with. The last thing a parent wants is to lose cellphone contact with her kids and teens; a battery back-up source would solve that problem and offer peace of mind to everyone in the family.

A back-up power source for cell phones is a great gift for mature university students with kids.
A back-up power source for cell phones is a great gift for mature university students with kids.

Computer Lessons

Here's another gift you can give someone who's going back to school as an adult student: tech support and computer lessons. This is a great idea for people who aren't computer savvy and now must all of a sudden figure out how to use word-processing software, internet browsers, email programs, and a whole host of other modern computer applications. If you're a computer whiz yourself, you can do the tutoring. But if you're more of a tech-user rather than a tech-teacher, you can arrange and pay for a few hours of one-to-one computer tutorials at home with an expert.

Books on How to Write Essays

Whether your back to school student has never been to university or their returning to school to finish their degree, brushing up on their essay writing skills might boost their confidence. Knowing how to write strong essays and term-papers is a must for any student who wants to do well at university, and so a book on how to write essays makes a great gift.

Computer lessons are a thoughtful gift for mature college students.
Computer lessons are a thoughtful gift for mature college students.

Free Child-Minding

The last item on this list of gifts for mature students doesn't cost you a dime, but it can be so valuable to the recipient: free childcare. Returning students with kids often have to juggle their family commitments and school schedules. Even if a student has found a way to pre-arrange childcare to cover her regularly scheduled classes and exams, sometimes deadlines creep up. All of a sudden mom is trying to get her paper done and take the kids to soccer practice and get dinner on the table and walk the dog and... well, you get the idea!

Letting your friend know that you're able to help out with the kids if they're ever feeling stressed out about completing their assignments is one of the best gifts you can give. Here's a gift-giving tip: package this back to school present as a booklet of homemade coupons that your friend or loved one can call on you to redeem when needed.

Looking after your friend's kids for a few hours while she studies is a great gift for a mature student.
Looking after your friend's kids for a few hours while she studies is a great gift for a mature student.

© 2016 Sally Hayes

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