When you go back to college, you’ll need support. You’ll need folks on your team who can answer any question you may have, who have your back, and can help you keep stress from taking you down.
These 8 steps will help you build you support team, whether you are thinking about taking online general education courses, or enrolling full-time in a nursing degree program:
Step 1: Clearly define your educational and career goals.
Your degree path should act as a road map – and help prepare you and your family for what’s to come. It should include which career you would like upon graduation, which degree(s) qualifies you for that career, and most importantly, which courses you need for your degree. By breaking it down this way, you can divide your courses into prerequisites and major courses. Knowing which prerequisite and general education courses are necessary will allow you to be more flexible in where (and how much you end up paying) for those courses.
Step 2: Know what you need. Ask for help.
Once you decide to enroll in college, it’s go time. Don’t assume your friends, family, or coworkers understand what you need – speak with them regularly and let them know how they can help.
Step 3: Contact Student Support at school.
The student support staff at your college are available when, and how, you need them. They get what you are going through, and have a vested interest in your success. Typically, you can reach student support services through a variety of methods: online chat, email, in-person or via phone.
Your college-based support system may include the following:
- Student Advisors: Student Advisors will help get through challenges big and small, and can provide you with the confidence that you are making the right choices around your education. Student Advisors are the ones you will turn to if you have any questions about which classes to sign up for, technical difficulties, course requirements, course transfer issues, getting your transcripts, or just general questions about how your degree program works.
- Enrollment Counselors: Enrollment Counselors typically help students figure out the nuts and bolts of enrolling in a college course or degree program. Their expertise range from paying for college, admission requirements, and what forms to fill out when.
- Tutors: Tutors work with you one-on-one to help you work through specific homework challenge, and provide you the academic assistance to get “unstuck” and move on.
Step 4: Communicate well, early and often.
Communicating with your family allows your educational goals to become shared family goals. Let your family know what to expect once you begin taking classes, and what adjustments will need to be made. Reassure them that you will still be there for them when they need you.
The same goes for work. Let your employer and co-workers know you are going back to school. Your employer has a vested interest in your development. Things are going to come up, but if you have developed open communication lines, you’ll be able to figure things out and move forward as a team.
Step 5: Get your family involved.
Working together can help you get through the tough times – and stay focused.
Successful students have involved their families by:
- Creating a family homework hour. Adults and kids work on their homework at the same time – a time where parents actively “show” kids the importance of education.
- Delegating household duties. Look at how things were “always” done around the home, and see where others, like your spouse, a partner, or your kids, can take a more active role.
- Celebrating milestones. Pass that big exam? Hand in a paper on time? Finish your general education requirements? Celebrate the big and small milestones with your family.
Step 6: Remember to say “Thank you.”
Nothing shows your appreciation more than acknowledging your friends, family, and co-workers that you are aware of, and grateful for, their support.
Step 7: Sometimes you will need to say, “No.”
Set boundaries. Remember, when you say “no” to the little things, you are really saying “yes” to your bigger educational goals and career dreams.
Step 8: Give yourself – and your support team - incentives.
In the workplace, it is proven that incentive programs significantly improve performance. Consider supporting yourself, and your college support team, with incentives. These might include a family trip to a water park after exams, a special night out with your spouse, or buying your favorite cereal for every “A.” Use whatever reward system that works best for you, and your support team.
With the right kind of support, you can make going back to college a reality.