Common Anxieties among Adult Students

Adult students have different needs to younger students, and their anxieties are different.

Traditional younger students may be worried about leaving home for the first time, wondering how they will settle and make new friends far away from home. They may worry briefly about their studies but generally do not, at least, not until the first exams come and campuses exude a quiet studious air rather than the sound of music blasting from student residences.

Adult students are at a different place in life, their lives are more complex, and their anxieties about education reflect their different lives.

The difference with traditional students

  • A traditional student may fit on a Saturday or part time job around their studies, whereas an adult student is more likely to have a full-time job.
  • A young person’s parents or family generally supports him, or her, through college. An adult student must usually support him or herself.
  • Students entering college directly from high-school are not usually responsible for anyone else, whereas adult students may be married or in a committed relationship with children.
  • Adult students may have to juggle responsibilities for jobs, partners, children and the other responsibilities that only come with adulthood with their studies.

Most tutors understand that mature students have different responsibilities. They are usually very sympathetic and try their best to help the student come to a mutually agreed and convenient solution, when life intrudes on a student’s studies.

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Am I…too old for this?

Adult students may be very anxious that they are too old to return to education.

They may fear that they will be the oldest student in the class, that their brains are too old to absorb knowledge or that they will hold other students learning back because they are slower.

These worries are, for the most part, groundless.

For example: Marie, had these fears when she attended university as a mature student, she was not the oldest in her class by a long way. In the year that Marie graduated, the oldest graduate was eighty-six. You are never too old to learn.

As an adult student, you have some advantages over young students.

You have experienced life, work and the world and you can apply this experience to your studies.

A law lecturer once said it was much easier to teach adult students because they had, between them, real experience of law in action and could apply that knowledge, whereas, when he taught young students, he had to explain everything in minute detail.

He added that adult students’ exam essays reflected their greater understanding, whereas young students exam essays reflected the fact that they had little understanding how things work in the real world and had learned their work parrot fashion.

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Other anxieties

1. Adult students may worry that their academic skills may be rusty from lack of use.

It may be decades since an adult student did any learning. To alleviate any worry, an adult student could consider taking a basic, remedial or refresher course to refresh, practice or remember half- forgotten skills.

2. Adult students come to adult education on their own volition rather than because their friends are going to college, or their parents want them to, or they do not know what else to do.

Young people are discovering their individuality, life, relationships, and the world whereas adult students have usually done that and can concentrate on their studies with those youthful distractions.

3. Adult students may not have any experience of an adult education environment and be apprehensive that it will be like school. They may also worry about the sheer size of the college campus and buildings and be a bit phased by young people rushing around in all directions. However, adult students, get used to these things in time.

4. Adult students may be concerned about the cost of their studies. If your course is concerned with your job, your employer may fund you.

Universities have scholarships and grants to fund students partially or fully, some even have special scholarships and grants that are only open to mature students. You should ask at your education institution how to apply for these.

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Some educational charities fund adult students’ studies and your institution should know how you apply for educational grants from such sources.

Final Word

Mature students do feel anxious about returning to education, and it is natural to be apprehensive. However, you can easily overcome most of these anxieties, returning to school, as an adult, is a positive experience and one that will help you in so many ways.

It changes you and your life, giving you a newfound confidence and self-esteem. You will learn so much more than those things detailed on the course outline.

Academic skills are only a small part of what you will learn and your adult education will help you to achieve so much more than you can even dream now.

If you are thinking about returning to education, do not allow your worries and anxieties to dissuade, or deter, you from grabbing the chance with both hands.