Advice for Going Back to School at an Older Age

Going back to school and finally getting the degree you’ve always wanted is an exhilarating experience.

There’s nothing like the bustle and energy of a college campus. But if it’s been a while since you’ve attended classes, you may have forgotten some basics that will save you time in the long run.

Preparing to attend school helps you feel at home and on top of things from the start of your new college career.

Older student in classroom

1) Familiarize yourself with the campus website.

Everything is accomplished online with most schools now, and you will need to be able to access all information quickly and efficiently. There may be a technical resource office or building with people who can help you find what you’re looking for.

Many classes use an online resource such as Blackboard as a location to post assignments, research paper guidelines, conduct discussions and post grades. You will need to understand how to access the sites your classes use and navigate through them.

2) Be sure to set up your home office before school starts.

When the syllabi come rolling in, and you see how much research and writing is involved with almost every class, you’ll understand how important it is to have a designated workspace.

If your work area doesn’t afford you the physical space to spread research materials out for easy access, it will make all your writing efforts that much more uncomfortable.

If you are hastily trying to patch in your work efforts in the middle of the family traffic area, you will be distracted and tense.

Try to find an office space that’s removed from the flow of humanity so you can concentrate on what you’re doing and stay focused on your work.

3) Look at your schedule and try to chisel out times that are dedicated to nothing but schoolwork.

Make sure your family understands that this is your time, and you will be in your office. Making these arrangements before you have to start shuffling books and papers will make all the difference in your stress level during the semester.

4) Do a walking tour of the campus and locate all class buildings.

Other important offices to locate are your advisor’s office, the registrar, financial aid, the student health office, the bookstore, the library, the computer lab(s) and the copying services. Most colleges and universities have printable maps on their websites.

Some campuses are so large it’s a shock to find out how much time it takes to walk from one building to the next. Some buildings are not laid out in what might be a logical fashion, and you can go around in circles simply finding your classroom.

It will save you much time to familiarize yourself with the campus and understand the time constrictions involved with getting from one building to another.

5) Take the time before classes begin or on the first day of classes to take a tour of the library.

It will save you time and anxiety to know the library lay out. Some libraries have specific tours already set up for new students. Some older larger university libraries are now at the overflowing point with books in their limited space, so they are reshelving books constantly and changing the location of subject materials all the time.

You need to know how to find the areas where you will be doing most of your research. Also make sure you dig into the library website before classes, so you know how to find your account information, how to renew online, how to locate research databases and conduct searches.

Many colleges and universities have designated librarians that work with each department or school. These people are a golden resource, and we encourage you to contact them. Most librarians are eager to help you in any possible way they can so don’t be shy about asking.

6) Make sure you understand the parking arrangements at your school.

No school is alike. Most are now charging for parking.

Where are the parking lots in relation to your classes? How much does parking cost? Is there a parking permit you need to acquire or a sticker that needs to be on your vehicle?

Parking fees are some of the hidden costs of your college education, and they can be staggering if you aren’t prepared for them.

Parking lots and garages often fill up quickly on heavy class days so make certain you have an alternate parking area worked out, so you don’t waste time on this often frustrating chore.

7) Buy your books as soon as you possibly can.

The old scenario of lines out the door and around the building at the bookstore has not changed. Though bookstores do the best they can to expedite this process, it can still be slow going. Some larger universities have a way to order your books online. But however you get it done, try to run that errand before classes begin.

8) Purchase a good, comfortable book bag.

This may seem a small thing, but there’s nothing worse than throwing your back out lugging textbooks, notebooks, laptop, a jacket, your lunch and anything else you need over miles of college campus.

Backpacks are one way to go, but if it doesn’t fit well, it won’t be comfortable loaded down with books.

The limited space in classrooms also makes it difficult to maneuver with a large, clumsy book bag. Some people prefer the rolling bag/cart arrangement but whatever you choose make sure it’s as comfortable for you as possible.

9) Think about what you do want to take with you to classes so you’re prepared.

If you’re going to be at school for most of the day, you may want to take food and water. The prices in student unions and most small restaurants around campuses are high, and these places are often quite crowded.

Consider your comfort and what you need to survive a long day on campus. If you are prepared for your new life at school, you will enjoy the experience so much more and be ready for success.