You’ve made another big life decision – you’ve decided that it’s time to get back into student life as an adult returning to college. But, where do you begin?
With the extra years of life experience under your belt, and likely work experience, there are many skills you have which likely make you better prepared to be a student again. And, you’re not alone in this endeavor.
In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that there had been a 35 percent increase in college students aged 25 to 34 between 2001 and 2015.
So, why do adults choose to return to college in the first place? Some of the most standout reasons are:
- Career advancement
- Change of direction
- Sense of accomplishment
- Job security
There are many reasons why adults return to school, and if you have yours, here are a few quick tips to keep you focused and on your way to graduation and a look at how to be an adult student:
1. Define Your Why
People return to college for a variety of reasons. Whether you’re going back to earn a degree for a better salary, network with new people, challenge yourself, provide better opportunities for your family, or simply cross it off your bucket list, be sure to set your goals and reasoning before you enroll in classes.
It may be useful to even write down your reasoning and goals so that you can refer back to them when you may feel unmotivated. Set measurable goals, like the number of courses you want to complete in a certain amount of time or your desired GPA, so that you can stay accountable and on track.
2. Set Your Schedule
Regardless of your age, college means a rigorous schedule where academic, social, work, and your private life need to be balanced. While it may feel like an overwhelming period of adjustment to get back into the swing of things, you can outline how you want to spend each day by using a schedule.
Start with your class schedule, since that’s less flexible and set somewhat outside of your control, and then build your days in chunks of time around those blocks. By having a consistent schedule, it’ll be easier to stay on track and remain motivated to finish tasks because you already know how your days will be outlined.
3. Plan Finances in Advance
Whether you have a family or not, going back to school incurs costs (and it may even be the reason you left in the first place). Break down a monthly budget in terms of academic and life costs and plan accordingly. Being financially independent and responsible is a key to your success, especially if it was one of the reasons you had previously chosen to leave college.
There are many ways to get financial help, whether it be financial aid, grants or scholarships. Another option is to consider a tuition-free program like University of the People.
4. Do the Paperwork
As you likely know, degrees require certain classes and a set number of units to be able to earn your degree and graduate. Make sure you research the required coursework and class availability so that you can outline your schedule properly to graduate in your desired time. Check application deadlines and order transcripts in time to be considered as a prospective student.
This is all especially important if you are returning to a different school than the one you previously left.
5. Expand Your Network
Leverage the social benefits of going back to college and try to connect with people from both similar and different backgrounds. College is a place where cultures collide and people from all walks of life combine for the same purpose. This could help forge new friendships and open the door to new business/job opportunities in the long run. Like the old saying goes, “your network is your net worth.”
6. Ask for Help
At every step along the way when you are returning to college and on your way to graduation, career counselors and school counselors are there to help you make sure you can achieve your goals in the set amount of time. Don’t be afraid to request a meeting so they can help you map out your coursework in advance so that you don’t miss any requirements.
Additionally, there are various organizations for your interests on campus, and remotely (if you’re attending an online program) so that you can always connect with people with similar interests, and potentially, those who have the same questions as you. Online forums such as quora and videos are another place where it’s easy to find help for whatever questions that may still linger.
7. Find Your Balance
College can become stressful at times, with tests, deadlines, and homework. So, it’s just as important to plan some time in your schedule for leisure activities and exercise so that you don’t experience burnout. If you feel like you “don’t have enough time” for these things, consider waking up earlier than you do now. You can get a workout in or start working on homework earlier in the day since your brain will be fresh from sleep, and then you’ll have the extra leisure time at night after classes and/or work.
You Did It !
The hardest part is over – you’ve made the decision to go back to college, and that takes courage. Now, it’s important to remember why you are going back and how you can put everything into place ahead of time so that you stay on track. From financial planning to outlining your schedule, you have all the power to set yourself up for success!