I'll keep this short.

I'm a 26-year-old high school dropout. College never seemed to be in my cards. (I come from a poor family and higher education was always seen as a pipe dream.) My grades in school were abysmal, but not for lack of intelligence; I was the kid who'd draw patterns on my Scantron answer sheet and then nap until the bell rang. Academics meant nothing, so I dropped out, got my GED (near-perfect score without having studied, btw), and moved on with my life.

Anyway, when I was 23, I decided to look into the strange world of mathematics. I bought a used algebra textbook, and, to my surprise, was easy. I worked through the whole thing, cover to cover, in about a month.

I became curious at that point, so I continued learning. By the end of the fifth month, I had learned geometry, and in another month or two I had gone through a trig textbook. Long story short, within a year and a half of self-study, I went from knowing rudimentary algebra to passing the CLEP calculus exam.

I haven't gone any further than that, but never once did I find myself puzzled by any concept. It all made sense to me.

As a 26-year-old with nothing but a GED, is it too late to start college, assuming I find the money for it?

Thanks for your time!


closed as off-topic by Najib Idrissi, Tim Raczkowski, Aloizio Macedo, Rolf Hoyer, Lord_Farin Aug 31 '15 at 19:28

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  • "Seeking personal advice. Questions about choosing a course, academic program, career path, etc. are off-topic. Such questions should be directed to those employed by the institution in question, or other qualified individuals who know your specific circumstances." – Najib Idrissi, Tim Raczkowski, Aloizio Macedo, Rolf Hoyer, Lord_Farin
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    $\begingroup$ I would suggest asking your question here: academia.stackexchange.com -- you are likely to get more responses there. That being said, if you're motivated to go to college and learn math, do it. It's never too late to turn your life around $\endgroup$ – Brenton Aug 20 '15 at 6:20
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    $\begingroup$ Absolutely not too late. 26 is young. I know a middle-aged woman who went to college knowing virtually no math. She started with the very lowest level course on offer at the community college, which was basic arithmetic. She went on to do calculus, differential equations, linear algebra etc. $\endgroup$ – Jair Taylor Aug 20 '15 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ Check out the life of the mathematician Weierstrass. $\endgroup$ – Benicio Aug 20 '15 at 6:45
  • $\begingroup$ I like older students. They're more motivate to learn the material. 8-) $\endgroup$ – Christopher Carl Heckman Aug 20 '15 at 7:00
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    $\begingroup$ I hope I am not the only one annoyed by the narrative of college as a way of "turning your life around", as though the people who did not attend university have (by definition) mediocre lives. $\endgroup$ – ASCII Advocate Aug 20 '15 at 7:00

You refer to US exams, so I guess you would study there.

The short answer is "yes, of course", but the longer answer is that especially in the US system, costs and benefits are heavily tied to: which school you attend; the so-called financial aid that determines the true out-of-pocket cost; the subject in which you take a degree; whether you obtain further education after the degree; whether you graduate and whether that happens within 4-5 years; whether you work during the studies. This makes it very important to have a source of advice who knows the system well, and who knows your situation in detail.


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