Returning to college as an adult can be an intimidating and challenging endeavor. Whether you are contemplating changing fields, seeking to upgrade your skills, or pursuing a long-held dream, the idea of returning to the classroom can be overwhelming. However, the decision to pursue higher education as an adult can be a life-changing one, leading to greater personal fulfillment. For many adults, the biggest question becomes: Is it too late to go back to school?
Balancing Work and Family Responsibilities
Many adults have work and family obligations that can make it difficult to find time to attend classes and complete coursework.
One solution is to consider part-time or online programs that offer flexibility in scheduling. Part-time or online classes offer several benefits for students who are seeking to further their education while balancing other commitments, such as work or family responsibilities.
Here are some of the benefits of taking part-time or online classes:
- Flexibility: Part-time or online classes offer more flexibility than traditional full-time classes. Students can typically schedule classes around work or family commitments, which allows them to pursue their education without sacrificing other important aspects of their lives.
- Accessibility: Online classes are accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, which means that students can attend classes from the comfort of their own homes or while on the go. This is particularly beneficial for students who live far away from the institution they wish to attend or who have mobility issues.
- Affordability: Part-time or online classes are often more affordable than traditional full-time classes. Students can save on tuition, transportation, and other associated costs.
- Customization: Part-time or online classes allow students to customize their educational experience to meet their needs. Students can choose from a variety of courses and programs, and can often work at their own pace.
- Skill-building: Part-time or online classes can help students develop valuable skills, such as time management, self-discipline, and computer literacy, which are highly valued in the modern workplace.
There are plenty of colleges catering to adult learners, offering courses at non-traditional times such as the evenings, weekends, or online. Another solution is to communicate openly with family and work personnel to set realistic expectations and boundaries.
The cost of tuition, textbooks, and other expenses associated with college can be a significant barrier for many adults.
Adult learners can explore various financial aid options such as grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs. Research and compare the costs of different schools and programs to find the most affordable options. Another great option is to ask your employer if they offer any kind of tuition or scholarship match program. Many colleges partner with employers to offer these kinds of educational benefits to employees—and their families as well.
Adjusting to the Academic Environment
It can be intimidating to return to the classroom after being out of school for a long time. Adult students may worry about whether they have the necessary academic skills to succeed in college. It’s important to remember that the last time you were in school you were likely quite young and perhaps not focused on your education. Returning to college as an adult offers a different perspective, and the chance to truly absorb what you’re learning, and use it—rather than cram all night for a test and forget the material immediately afterwards.
Many colleges offer academic support services such as tutoring, writing centers, and study skills workshops to help students succeed academically. Adult learners can also reach out to professors and classmates for assistance and feedback. Many colleges cater specifically to adult learners, and know that students may need some extra help getting into the swing of things. Ask any colleges you’re considering if they offer writing or math assistance, on-demand tutoring, or other resources.
Mature learners can seek out campus groups and events specifically for non-traditional students and connect with peers in your age group. Regardless of the demographics at a college, you’re there to learn and so is everyone else!
With the increasing reliance on technology in education, some adults may worry about their ability to adapt to new technologies and digital tools used in the classroom. That’s what school is for! Nobody expects you to be an expert on your first day—or the next, or the next.
Many colleges offer technology training and support to help students adapt to new tools and platforms. You can also seek out peer tutoring or online resources to improve your technology skills. Joining a study group or asking the instructor for a one-on-one tutorial could also help improve your confidence using unfamiliar technology. By the time you graduate, you’ll be a pro!
Managing time effectively can be a challenge for many adults who are juggling multiple responsibilities. You may worry about being able to complete assignments on time and balance your academic and personal life.
It can also be helpful to create a schedule containing all of your personal, professional, and academic schedules, events, and deadlines, which you can then share with your network. Additionally, you may want to prioritize your tasks and delegate responsibilities when possible.
Tips for Time Management as an Adult Student
- Prioritize tasks: Make a list of tasks you need to complete each day and prioritize them according to importance. Focus on the most critical tasks first and then work your way down the list.
- Set achievable goals: Set goals that are realistic and achievable given your current workload and family commitments. Break down bigger tasks into smaller ones and work on them consistently over time.
- Schedule your time: Use a calendar or planner to schedule your time and make sure you allocate time for work, family, and personal activities. This will help you stay organized and avoid over-committing to one area at the expense of another.
- Communicate with others: Communicate with your family and colleagues about your schedule and commitments. Let them know when you'll be available and when you won't, and ask for their support when needed.
- Be flexible: Be open to adjusting your schedule and plans as needed. Unexpected events will inevitably arise, and being flexible will help you navigate them more effectively.
- Take care of yourself: Make time for self-care activities, such as exercise, relaxation, and hobbies. Taking care of yourself will help you manage stress and maintain a positive attitude.
Finding a Support System
Starting a new adventure in a new setting can feel isolating, and may cause concerns about finding a supportive community on campus. In most cases, all you’ll have to do is ask!
Seek out support from academic advisors, professors, classmates, and campus organizations. Additionally, reach out to family, friends, and colleagues for emotional support and encouragement.
Benefits of Earning a College Degree
Earning a college degree can provide numerous benefits that can positively impact an individual's personal and professional life. A college education can provide individuals with valuable knowledge, critical thinking skills, and the ability to communicate effectively. This can lead to new opportunities and greater self-confidence. Additionally, earning a college degree can broaden one's horizons, expose individuals to new ideas, and provide a sense of personal achievement and fulfillment.
It’s Never Too Late
Going back to college as an adult is a decision that can have a profound impact on your personal and professional life. Despite the challenges and obstacles that may arise, it's important to remember that it's never too late to start. With dedication, persistence, and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone, you can successfully navigate the college experience and achieve your goals. The rewards of earning a degree as an adult are immeasurable, and the benefits can last a lifetime. So if you're considering a return to the classroom, know that you have the power to make it happen and that it's never too late to invest in your future.
At ECPI University, you could earn a bachelor's degree in nearly half the time. Forget four years--how's 2.5? Our campuses cater to busy adult learners with day, evening, and weekend courses. We offer many programs online. Our instructors are experienced and available to provide additional tutoring or support. Contact ECPI University today to learn more and get started. It could be the BEST Decision You Ever Make!
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