Going back to school as an adult is a big decision, but earning your degree can help you advance your career and build a better life for you and your family. It’s normal to be nervous if you’re considering going back--after all, balancing work and family commitments while paying for classes can be challenging. The good news is that if you’re considering going back as an adult, you’re not alone. Almost 35% of all college students in the United States--about 6.6 million people--are 25 or older. And there are lots of reasons people go back to school as adults. Many have started college but never have had the chance to finish, while others might have had full-time careers since they left high school. Some may have just taken a few years off after college, while others may be going back to school after 10 years or more. Adult students are often members of the military or have highly specialized technical training but no degree. No matter your situation, remember that it’s never too late to go back to school. In this article, we’re sharing some of our best advice for adults going back to college to help you reduce stress and prepare for success.
Why Go Back to School?
If you’re nervous about going back to school, it can help to remind yourself why you’re set on earning your degree. It’s no secret that a college degree can increase your earning potential drastically. In general, the higher the degree you hold, the more money you’re likely to earn. But money isn’t always everything. Maybe you’re looking to earn a promotion at your current job, or maybe you’re thinking of trying an entirely new career. Either way, the right degree program can help you gain more responsibility or can help you transition into a totally different field. As you begin your journey back to class, be sure to keep your ultimate goal in mind.
Finding Success in School as an Adult
Going back to school may seem daunting, but many of the challenges adults face going back to school can be addressed head-on with the right mindset and preparation. Try out some of the tips below to help make going back to school as seamless an adjustment as possible.
Talk with your family
Though you may be the one going back to school, your family will be instrumental in helping you succeed. As you review your options, be sure to talk with your family about balancing your commitments at school and at home. Consider making a family schedule. Having everyone on the same page before you begin will reduce any conflicts that might arise as you find yourself busier during evenings and weekends.
Try part-time, low-pressure, and low-cost opportunities first
If you’re not sure you can handle a full-time program immediately, there are lots of other ways to make progress towards your degree. Enroll part-time at your local community college or take a few online courses through an alternative credit provider at StraighterLine. StraighterLine offers more than 60 low-cost, fully-online courses that you can complete at your own pace, and they’re guaranteed to transfer to more than 150 schools across the country.
Have a game plan for getting work done
It’s important to schedule regular study time for yourself, but it also helps to establish a private, quiet place at home to study to help you stay focused. Do your best to start assignments early, and be sure to reach out to your professors or advisors if you have questions about anything!
Advocate for yourself, and never be afraid to ask for help
Building relationships and staying in close contact with professors, mentors, and advisors at your institution can help you be successful throughout your college journey. Look for a program that offers you lots of support options that can help you navigate a variety of situations. For example, StraighterLine’s student advisors can help you choose courses, clarify questions about assignments, send transcripts, and answer any questions you might have about billing.
Make time for self-care
Going back to school can be stressful, so it’s important to make time for yourself. Try to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen while you’re taking classes, and allow yourself to spend time each week doing something you love to do, like cooking, going to the movies, or taking a hike. And, when you achieve something special, make sure to celebrate. Motivate yourself with small rewards for things like getting an “A” on a tough assignment or passing a class. You deserve it! While going back to school won’t necessarily be easy, don’t give up. With the right planning, preparation, and support, you can meet your goals and take the next step in your career.
Anissa Sorokin, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English and Writing Program Administrator at Stevenson University near Baltimore, Maryland. Anissa’s interdisciplinary background and extensive experience teaching research, writing, and study skills help her demystify college expectations for students online and in her classroom.