6 Tips for Adults Returning to College

The “unexpected” has a way of interfering with your best intentions of graduating from college. An unplanned pregnancy, a job change or a career opportunity can put a sudden stop to your higher educational goals.

However, things change later on in life. Children grow up and move out, and job situations stabilize. Around that time, you may start to consider going back to college to earn your degree.

adult students in classroom

Returning to college is one of the most terrifying and exhilarating things that you can do, but you can make the transition easier by following a few simple tips.

1. Adjusting to College

Getting back in the rhythm of attending classes, taking tests and completing assignments takes some getting used to after spending years in a job environment.

The first assignment or test can be seriously intimidating. You may look at the instructions for the first assignment and find yourself asking in terror, “What was I thinking when I signed up for this?”

You will probably realize that your skills are rusty and that you’ve been away from school for such a long time that you don’t really remember how all of this is supposed to work. You can rest assured that it will come back to you in time. If it doesn’t, you may want to seek the advice of a school counselor or tutor who can refresh your memory.

2. Meeting People

Attending classes with students who are younger than your children can take a bit of adjustment.

First, it’s awkward going to class and feeling like the oldest person in the room, and secondly, you may not feel like you have much in common with your classmates.

You’d be surprised at how much you have in common during group projects and exams.

In addition, the chances are excellent that somewhere during your college experience you’ll run into people your own age who are there for the same reasons you are, and it’s a good opportunity for you to meet people and make new friends.

3. Online Education

Many adults have obligations such as jobs and families and really don’t have time to squeeze ground-based classes into an already nerve-wracking schedule.

If you are one of those people who cringe at the thought of having to sit through lectures, have trouble making it to class on time, or just don’t have the patience for dealing with college parking, you may want to consider online classes.

Online programs take a little more self-motivation than ground classes, but you can take only one course at a time and work on assignments before or after work, on weekends or late into the night depending on your schedule.

You’re the one going to school – go with the program that you’re most comfortable with.

4. Take Your Time

As an adult, you have a luxury that the younger students generally cannot afford; you have the gift of time.

You already have a job, a family and a life. You do not need to take fifteen classes a semester just to get through it as quickly as humanly possible so that you can get a job and start your adult life.

You can afford to take your time and do your best in each course.

5. Be Patient

As a mature adult, you have a lifetime of experience and some hardened opinions.

You may run into difficulty when you run into younger professors who have different viewpoints than yourself, especially when it comes to touchy subjects.

It’s sorely tempting to want to tell that professor off and let him know that he has no idea what he’s talking about.

Don’t do it, even if you’re right. You need the grade. Be respectful, bite your tongue, rope in your opinions, and just remember that you will have the opportunity to fill out a professor evaluation form on the last day of class.

6. Stick With It

College isn’t easy. It can be especially difficult if you don’t fit in the standard college-kid mold.

The most important thing is for you to just hang in there, especially at the beginning when everything is new, awkward and just plain surreal.

Take your time and be patient with yourself and others; don’t be afraid to look for resources that can help you adjust, and keep your eyes on that ultimate goal of earning your college degree.