People decades past freshman age are heading back to school, and colleges and universities across Canada are rolling out the welcome mat to greet them.

By Ian MacNeill

They’re coming for a variety of reasons. Some are lifelong learners looking to expand their horizons and promote social interaction with like-minded peers, while others are mid-lifers intent on either upgrading their skills in a rapidly changing employment market or those looking to make a wholesale career change, some because they have to and some because they want to.

In many cases, going back to school is a way of making wishes come true. As children, we all imagined what we were going to be when we grew up: doctors, astronauts, musicians, artists, firefighters, carpenters, chefs, actors, designers, writers, you name it.

But then life happened and we got pulled in different directions, only to find ourselves in middle age still pining for that which we never made happen. Obviously, there are a lot of careers you can’t turn to in your 40s, 50s and 60s but thanks to longer and healthier living circumstances and a proliferation of educational opportunities, many mid-life Canadians are making their childhood dreams come true. Putting a face to the trend is Toronto’s Seneca College’s 2013 valedictorian, Steve Wilson, 47, who spent 25 years building everything from racing engines to housing projects before deciding to sign up for Seneca’s engineering program.

“I was doing fine financially but I just didn’t feel fulfilled,” says Wilson, who says he worked alongside building impresario Mike Holmes “before he became famous.”

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