I am a 53-year old construction worker, who has been laid off from work. I want to go back to school. Where do I start?

Considering today's economy, this is definitely a good time to come back to school. I know the biggest fear most students over 40 have is their age. They feel that college is for the 20-year-olds. That's just not true anymore. The average age at most colleges is creeping upward. Many have student populations that average in the mid-30s, and with the economy like it is, we are even seeing that average increase.

There are many things you can do to get back into school. First of all, if you are entitled to veterans benefits, usually the only thing you need to take to the campus veterans office are your DD-214 discharge papers. You can apply online for your VA education benefits at www.va.gov. If you have in mind the degree or certificate you are pursuing, make sure you find a college, university or trade school that offers that program.

If you are not eligible for veterans benefits, and not sure what degree you want to pursue, there is a great program that is completely free, called Veterans Upward Bound Program (www.navub.org). The program assists veterans in developing, improving and extending educational access and opportunities to eligible veterans through academic needs assessment, instruction, enrichment, and other education support activities. VUB will give you a test to find out just what skills you need to enhance your academic experience. Once you have completed the test, you will be enrolling in college prep classes.

VUB enrollment criteria include:

1. Must be a U.S. military veteran with 181 or more days of active-duty service and discharged on/after Jan. 31, 1955, under conditions other than dishonorable.

2. Qualify as low-income according to guidelines published annually by the U.S. Department of Education, and/or a first-generation college graduate.

3. Must demonstrate academic need.

4. Meets other local eligibility criteria as noted in the local VUB project's approved grant proposal, such as county of residence, etc.