Learning is a lifelong pursuit. That's the message students and faculty in public and private colleges and universities in Massachusetts offer grad school applicants.

Learning is a lifelong pursuit.


That's the message students and faculty in public and private colleges and universities in Massachusetts offer grad school applicants.


"Going back to the classroom was a good choice for me," said Elizabeth Dore, who is 46 years old and part way through Framingham State College's graduate program of education concentration in mathematics.


"I spend a lot of time at the library and writing papers, but the people and professors have been great and I think it's been worthwhile," said Dore. "I'm gaining a deeper understanding of the foundations of math."


Boston University graduate student Dessie Hristova said she is also seeking a degree in mathematics at age 26. It's allowing her to study how to use differential equations to express properties and motions of celestial bodies.


Both Dore and Hristova said their graduate courses have allowed them to rededicate themselves to the classroom and build on their undergraduate education.


"At first you don't know exactly what to expect, but for me it turned out to be a big change from an undergraduate degree and presented a lot of new challenges," Hristova said. "I'm really glad I decided to enroll."


Boston University mathematics professor David Fried said he has seen other students make decisions similar to Dore to return to school later in life.


"Those are usually the kind of people who re-thought their position and came back to math because they have a passion for it," he said.


Fried said those students often complete comprehensive thesis papers in fields such as number theory or statistics, which take time to master.


"We prefer the younger group, but we realize that if someone in their 30s has a contribution to make we will consider admitting them," added MIT Mathematics Professor Gigliola Staffilani. "An education in math is not something that has to end after you receive an undergraduate degree."


Janet Castleman, dean of Framingham State's graduate program, said the college encourages students like Dore to enroll in master's programs to further their education at any age.


"We welcome all applicants because going back to school, especially to study math or become a math teacher, is often a hard sell in our society," Castleman said. "The typical person who enrolls is an engineer in their 30s who is rethinking what they want in life."


After graduating, Dore and Hristova said they plan become researchers or teachers.


At age 26, Hristova said she never considered her age when applying to graduate school, while Dore, at age 46, said she "never thought it was too late."


Castleman agreed.


"People can benefit from education at any age," she said.


Staff writer Gabriel Leiner can be reached at 508-626-4436 or gleiner@cnc.com.