Going back to school can be a bit intimidating for older students. Here are three common concerns of adults going back to school and how to work around them.
The term “back to school” conjures up associations of fresh school supplies, great deals and new beginnings. But for adults going back to school after a long break whether it is to start or finish a degree, the term “back to school” might conjure up some anxiety instead.
Going back to school as an adult is far from uncommon. It’s more and more common for adults who have already been in the workforce to begin or complete a degree – both at online colleges and in traditional university settings.
According to a U.S. Department of Education statistic cited in this article on educationcorner.com, 40% percent of the overall student population in the U.S. is made up of individuals over 25 years old. Still, these adults may feel that they are entering unmarked terrain.
Going back to school as an adult is usually done out of a desire to jumpstart one’s career, to increase one’s learning, and to boost one’s eligibility for higher-paying and more dynamic jobs. It’s an exciting decision, but these students may find themselves worrying about costs, time management issues, and social pressures.
After all, adults going back to school are less likely to have financial support from their parents and more likely to have a career and a family to tend to while they are studying. These are generally not concerns for younger students entering college directly from high school, and these added pressures may intimidate would-be students into putting their plans on hold.
If you’re an adult thinking of going back to school, it’s time to face these fears and figure out how to overcome them. Education is a lifelong process and pursuing a degree is a worthwhile, commendable and exciting achievement at any age.
Here are the three biggest concerns facing adults going back to school and how to move past them:
How on Earth Will I Pay for College?
Colleges and universities can be expensive – with many U.S. colleges charging more in tuition than many people make in a year (not including living expenses and necessary school supplies). Individuals planning on going back to school as an adult generally already have a great deal of expenses. Many are married and have children or parents whom they support, not to mention pets, mortgages, etc.
If you’re worried about the cost of your education, you’re not alone. The growing demand for a quality, affordable education has led to an increase in more affordable higher education options such as online colleges.
A little research will also reveal that scholarships and financial aid are not only for younger students. There are many scholarships that are specifically for adults – including some for working mothers, and older students.
You may also be eligible for federal financial aid and student loans.
Ideally, you’ll be able to make it work through a combination of finding some funding and opting for a tuition-free or a low tuition program.
When Will I Sleep?
Pursuing a degree is demanding. Why is it, then, that those young college students always look so well-rested? Adult students who go back to school deserve a special round-of-applause for the juggling act they end up performing. In addition to taking courses, doing homework and studying for tests they are often taking care of their families, going to work, putting food on the table, managing a household, running errands, watering the plants, feeding the cat, etc.
If you’re planning on going back to school as an adult you may be asking yourself: “When will I sleep?”
By opting for a career-focused online program, you will be able to make your education fit into your schedule. Many offer both accelerated and decelerated tracks. An accelerated track can be great for individuals who can afford to take a short hiatus from other responsibilities by allowing you to complete a year’s worth of courses in a matter of months. A decelerated track, on the other hand, will allow you to take a manageable number of courses that will fit into your already busy schedule. When experiencing apprehension about enrolling into a full-fledged degree program, opting for a specialized undergraduate certificate program can be potentially beneficial.
Don’t forget that adult students have a big advantage over other students. You’ve been out in the real world enough time to know how to manage your schedule. As you begin your academic journey, plan your days and weeks carefully. Trim away time-eaters from your day (things like time on Facebook or in front of the TV) and make sure that your days reflect your values: an appropriate amount of time for work and study without completely sacrificing things that bring you joy… like sleeping!
Will I Fit In?
Adult students often worry that they will stick out like a sore thumb in a class full of youngsters. Here I’m tempted to say: get over it! Remember, those youngsters are just as afraid of sticking out like sore thumbs for their own set of reasons. Entering a new academic and social environment is scary for everyone, but you should never let fear get in the way of your dreams.
For those who are uninterested in sitting in a classroom full of eighteen-year-olds who have never made a car payment, online programs are a great option.
But even with online programs you may find yourself in a community of students younger than you. Fear not. You will also, most likely, be with students older than you.
Going back to school as an adult is nothing to be ashamed of. Quite the opposite! It’s an exciting new step and something to be quite proud of.