Since the option first became available, adults returning to school have become a small but steady presence in educational institutes. Even if you’re not “college age” anymore, going back to school could enhance your career and help you achieve your goals in life. If you’ve ever considered this, here are the things you should know before you begin.
Why Do People Go Back To School?
People return to school for many reasons. These can include:
- Finally, I have the money to do it without going into debt
- Completing a degree that was never finished
- Gaining additional skills as part of a benefits package
- Learning new skills in preparation for a career change
- Personal Development
- And many more
You may not have the same reason for being there as anyone else in your class, and that’s okay! What matters is that you’re willing to sit down and start learning in a classroom. It may be a little hard to get back in the mindset of an obedient student if you’ve been a manager or leader for some time now, but you’ve done it before and you can do it again.
What Sorts Of Educational Opportunities Are Available?
Adults returning to school have all of the class choices that new students do. In many cases, though, you’ll also have access to continuing education programs specifically designed for professionals who want to develop specific skills.
These opportunities include studying things like new management techniques, catching up on the latest software, and learning languages and cultures before traveling overseas.
How Long Do Adults Have To Spend In College?
That depends on what you’re going for, but in most cases, you won’t need to take as many classes as students just out of high school. Many colleges accept Competency-Based Education and Prior Learning Assessments, both of which are fancy phrases for “stuff you already know”. If you have ten years of experience in marketing, you probably don’t need the introductory classes for your degree.
You may be able to shave off several classes, or even an entire year or two, by taking these sorts of tests.
I’m Feeling A Lot Of Anxiety About Balancing Schooling With Everything Else
You’re not alone. Most adults returning to school have anxiety. Between work, spending time with your family, and having time for hobbies and entertainments, it can be hard to fit the burden of education into your schedule. Fortunately, there are solutions.
If you’re planning to attend a school in-person, chances are you can take advantage of night classes that are easy to fit into your schedule. You can also take online courses instead of sitting in a classroom, which will allow you to proceed at whatever pace works for you. If you can only invest one day a week in your education, chances are there’s a school that can work with that.
What Else Should I Know About Going Back To School?
As a member of the adults returning to school, there are several important things to understand before you begin.
#1: You Are Not Alone
It’s hard to really feel this if you’re taking online classes, but thousands upon thousands of other adults are doing the same thing you’re doing. Many of them are just as motivated, busy, and in many cases financially-limited as you.
This is so common that many schools have programs and support staff specifically designed to help people like you. They know that you don’t have the same freedom as a traditional student – and, not to sound too cynical about it, they still want your business. If they don’t offer enough support, you’ll just go somewhere else, so they’re incredibly motivated to work with you.
#2: Financial Aid Is Still Available
Many states and colleges have grants and scholarships designed for adults, not just traditional students. If you need help, talk to the college and ask about what sorts of options are available. You can also start applying for grants outside the school.
If your workplace is supportive, they may be willing to cover some or all of the costs of your education. In most cases, this is because they want someone in the office with a particular set of skills, and training an existing employee is more affordable than finding and hiring someone entirely new.
#3: You’ll Need To Learn To Study With Distractions
If you’re going to take online classes – and many adult students do – get ready to study in distracting environments. Between pets, kids, and family events, there’s going to be a lot going on.
However, that’s no excuse for not finishing your homework. Instead, look for ways of motivating yourself to reach your goals, like playing with a dog every time you finish a major chunk of your work. Education shouldn’t feel too dreadful or like a chore, you have to slog through. When you want to finish because there’s immediate gratification, things will go much smoother.
If you have kids, encourage them to follow your lead and do their homework at the same time you’re doing yours. The last thing you want to do is seem like you don’t have all the answers, so that’s another bit of motivation to keep studying.
#4: Keep Your Devices Charged
If you’re studying with a laptop – and many adult students do so they can do their schoolwork anywhere – be sure to keep it charged. You don’t always know what you’re going to be doing each day, so keeping it fully charged ensures technical limitations won’t stop you from progressing when you can.
#5: Get Some Apps
There are apps for everything, so of course, there are apps designed for adult students. Ideal apps include features like time management (figure out what you’re doing each day so you can free up time), schedules, reminders of what you need to do for your degree, and collections of images, information, and everything else you might need for your homework.
#6: Get Familiar With The Wi-Fi Hotspots In Your Area
Tech problems happen. Maybe your home will suffer a power outage, or perhaps an older router will break down and force you to get a new one. Don’t hope you can avoid these. Instead, plan on them happening by learning which Wi-Fi hotspots are available in your area. This includes on the college’s physical campus (if relevant) and for several blocks around your neighborhood.
If one of these spots is available, you can just move to the next and keep working.
Alternately, you can rotate between hotspots on purpose. By regularly moving to new areas, you’ll be able to stimulate your creativity and approach your classes with a constant feeling of freshness.
#7: Take Refreshers If You Need Them
Let’s be honest, here: Some things you learned in school before just haven’t come up in your life ever since. Most jobs don’t require calculus, or long essay writing, or even attaching a footnote to things.
Entry tests are a great way to determine what subjects you need refreshers on. These are not the same as tests that will let you bypass introductory classes because you already know the material.
Most importantly, refreshers may be necessary if you need specific classes to get a degree. For example, you may need to brush up on your math skills, even if that’s not the major focus of your education. Some people don’t need refreshers, but some do. Don’t be stubborn about this because it won’t help.
#8: The Degree Matters. Where You Get It Does Not.
There’s a tendency to think that you have to attend one of the best schools to impress employers, but that’s wrong. All you really need to do is complete the degree while juggling the other responsibilities in your life. That demonstrates you can perform well and accomplish goals while under pressure, and that’s far more valuable to employers than figuring out if School A is a little better than School B.
#9: Graduation Rates For Adult Students Are High
In some areas, the graduation rate for non-traditional students who return to school for an adult education is above 95%. That sounds crazy at first, but it’s important to understand this: Most adults know exactly what they’re trying to do and which classes they need to take.
This is very different from the so-called traditional students, who don’t know what career they’re going for or what classes they should take when they first start college. They’re told to figure this out, but many of them genuinely can’t, and that’s why so many of them drop out before finishing their degree.
You’re not in the same position. By remaining focused like a laser on the programs that can help you, you’ll almost certainly be able to graduate. This is especially true if you save up the money beforehand so you won’t have to worry about quitting school if you lose your job or have another disruption in your life.