application process

How Old Do You Have to Be to Apply for College?

There are many requirements to submit when applying to the college of your choice. Some of them include the application form, letter of recommendation from your teacher, personal essay, supplemental essays, high school transcript, and SAT or ACT score. There are also requirements to meet, and one of them is your age.

The problem with this is that you cannot do something about your age, unlike your high school performance or personal essay. Because of this, you may feel that being too young or too old can have an impact on your college selection and application.

So, how old do you have to be to apply for college? In the US, colleges accept students who are at least 17 years of age. However, as always, there are exceptions to the rule. Although rare, accelerated students and home-schooled students are accepted, too. As with the upper age limit, US colleges do not turn down applicants because they are too old.

Regardless if you are 17 years old or younger or older, it is possible for you to apply for college. Even though there are exceptions to the rule, just like what was mentioned earlier, you will have to meet all of the requirements of the college of your choice if you want to go there.

Failure to meet one or many of the requirements can keep you from being accepted, and it doesn’t matter if you are too old or too young, or just the right age.

Keep on reading to know some of the most important matters that you need to know about age with regard to applying for college. Feel free to share this article on social media afterward so that your family and friends who are thinking about applying for college but are worried about their age may be able to read it as well.

Applying to a College vs. Looking for a College

You can look for a college no matter how far you are in high school. As a matter of fact, it is possible for a freshman to start checking out colleges and paying each of them a visit with their parents.

However, most experts agree that the best time for a high school student to start looking for a college is during their junior year.

It is a terrible idea to look for a college when you are already in your senior year. That’s because it will only leave you more stressed as the last year of high school is the busiest. When you are in your 12th grade, you should focus more on completing your college application requirements.

This is especially true if you are planning on applying early decision (ED) or early action (EA) to increase your chances of being accepted to the college of your choice.

On the other hand, applying for college is usually done just before you graduate from high school. This is why most colleges will accept students who are at least 17 years old as it’s the age when most people graduate from high school.

However, before your senior year in high school, you may apply for college scholarships that can help make getting your college diploma easier on the pocket.

Also, you can take some college classes while still in high school so that you may earn college credits.

You may apply for college even if you are already in your 20s, 30s, and even 50s. That’s because there is no upper age limit in terms of college application and admission, too.

Many Colleges in the US Have Older Students

If you are older than 17 years old and you did not have the chance or opportunity to go to college after graduating from high school, there is no need to be too embarrassed to pursue your dream of having a college diploma.

Refrain from assuming that you will be the only one in your freshman year of college who is old. Many are unable to go to college after high school due to a variety of reasons.

Some of them have no idea of which college to go to or program to take. Others do not have the financial means to go to college. No matter your reason for not going straight to college after high school, you have every right to apply to the college of your choice.

Here’s something that can help deal with your apprehension to go to college because of the fear that you could be the oldest in the class: many US colleges have students who are 25 years old and above.

Check out this table for the academic year 2018 to 2019 to know that, in terms of going to college, age is nothing but a number:

SchoolPercentage of Students 25 and Older
Fort Lewis College100%
Golden Gate University92%
Charter Oak State College89%
Brandman University85%
Fairmont State University82%
Peirce College82%
SUNY Empire State College82%
Granite State College80%
Post University77%
University of Maryland Global Campus75%
Source: US News

Going to any of the US colleges in the table above can keep you from worrying about your age. Always remember this: you are never too old to make your dream come true, including especially having a college degree!

Being Too Young or Too Old Should Not be a Hindrance

Above, you came across the names of colleges in the US, with the most number of students aged 25 years old and above.

While it provides you with the idea that you don’t have to be as young as a fresh high school graduate to be in college, however, it does not say how old you can be to finish college.

You will be surprised to know that there are those who were able to earn their college diplomas only after existing for nearly a century!

For instance, there’s Leo Plass, who is just a year away from being 100 years old when he graduated from college.

Plass first went to college back in 1932, but he dropped out to work in the logging industry. However, he went back to college and, in 2011, he got his associate’s degree from East Oregon University at 99 years old!

Here are some of the oldest people to finish college other than Plass:

NameAge Upon Graduating
Nola Ochs98
Twila Boston98
Allan Stewart97
Cliff Dadson93
Wally Taibleson90
Bertie Gladwin90
Mary Fasano89
Charlie Ball89
Anne Martindell87
Willadene Zedan85

Some people seem too old to finish college, while others seem too young to get their college diplomas. Well, there are kids out there who came into this world gifted with brains ready to take on the challenges that academic learning brings.

For instance, there’s Michael Kearney, who holds the Guinness World Records for being the youngest college graduate in the history of mankind. Kearney earned his college diploma at ten years of age.

The following are some of the youngest people to complete college aside from Kearney:

NameAge Upon Graduating
Moshe Kai Cavalin11
Sho Yano12
Gregory Smith13
Karl Witte13
Kathleen Holtz15
Kim Ung-Yong15
Balamurali Ambati17
Ruth Lawrence17
Norbert Wiener17

By the way, the last few names in the table above did not get associate’s or bachelor’s degrees.

What they got at such young ages were doctorate degrees! Because they have brilliant minds, being too young never kept them from being admitted to the colleges that they applied to.

Just Before You Apply to Your Preferred College

While a person has to be at least 17 years old to go to college, including especially in the US, it is possible for someone younger than that to be admitted to college. Such is usually the case with accelerated or home-schooled students.

The same is true for gifted students whose brains are no longer fit for elementary and high school. On the other hand, there is usually no upper age limit to be able to apply for college.

Instead of focusing on your age when applying to college, devote your time and energy to completing the requirements.

You have higher chances of being rejected by a college if you fail to meet the necessary documents rather than being less than 17 years old or being as old as a grandfather or a grandmother.

Related Questions

Can I apply for college even without attending or completing high school? In the US, colleges may accept an applicant who does not have a high school diploma but has an equivalent of it, like a GED.

How old should I be to get a GED? Usually, only those who are at least 17 years old are allowed to study for and take the GED. However, a person who is 16 years old may apply for a GED age waiver.

Photo credit: ©canva.com/inarik


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

Similar Posts