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Adult Learners Reveal the 7 Things They Wish They Knew Before Going Back to School

Nov 30, 2016 | Harrison College

Adult Learners Reveal the 7 Things They Wish They Knew Before Going Back to School

Whether you were an average student or the top of the class, if it’s been awhile since you were in the classroom you’re probably feeling apprehensive or even nervous about the prospect of returning. Luckily, you’re not alone. Thousands of adult students return to the classroom each semester. In fact, adult students like you will make up 43 percent of all college students by 2021.

Adult students are not alone in feeling hesitant about hitting the books again. But it’s time to put your fears aside. We spoke with students who have been in your shoes to hear what they learned about going back to school as an adult learner. Here’s what they had to say.

7 things adult learners should know

1. Some students will be obsessed with their grades

Some things never change. We all knew these students growing up and going back to school now will be no different. Every class will have its students heavily concerned with their grades, but don’t let that detract from what really matters: your personal academic goals.

“I wish that I’d known how grade-focused my classmates would be,” says Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW. She explains that she was dedicated to enjoying her college experience, focusing on learning and not feeling excessively pressured. Achieving good grades is important. But don’t become so obsessed with your performance that you lose focus on learning the actual material you’ll need to succeed in your career.

2. Don’t underestimate the time commitment

Going back to school is a big decision. If you’re going to earn your degree, you may as well give it your all. There’s a reason not everyone does it — because it’s a major commitment. You should expect to devote some serious study sessions to your classes to be successful.

“I wish I would have known how much time I would have needed to study,” says Sophia Antoine, certified coach and consultant. “I severely underestimated the amount of time I needed to dedicate to my education.”

3. Creating a contract will help you stick to your goals

Draft up your own academic contract to serve as a promise to yourself and a declaration of your commitment to school, recommends former adult learner Alexis Moore. This is something you can use to set personal expectations for yourself. You can also share it with loved ones to set the standard of what to expect while you’re hitting the books.

“Have long talks with family and close friends about your education goals,” Moore says. She adds that it’s important for you and your loved ones to be prepared to make sacrifices throughout the process. Returning to that contract occasionally will remind everyone involved of the goal and avoid feelings of guilt or resentment along the way.

4. You are the only person responsible for staying on track

As an adult learner, your education will come with a lot of freedom and flexibility. But don’t let that keep you from staying on top of your studies. Implement habits that will allow you to be diligent about meeting deadlines and properly preparing for assignments and exams.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t reach out for help when necessary. Most professors are eager to assist their students, and many schools offer various student support resources. But it’s up to you to take advantage of the help.

“I wish I had known the amount of studying and reading necessary to grasp the concepts and the expectations placed on you as an adult learner,” says Cathy L. Webb, DrPHc, empowerment speaker and author. “You are expected to keep up with the pace of the course, seek assistance when needed and be mindful of deadlines. You receive the syllabus and are expected to review and adhere to it.”

5. Scholarships for adults DO exist

Just because you’re not a traditional 18-year-old student doesn’t mean there aren’t scholarship opportunities available to you. You may find it to be quite the contrary, with many scholarships catering to adult learners.

Inquire about scholarship opportunities early in the enrollment process.

6. Caring for your mental and physical well-being is a must

Yes, all students should take care to preserve their well-being. But this is especially critical to the adult student. With extra responsibilities and added pressures, you’ll need to be extra diligent about caring for your health.

“If you are not taking care of yourself, adding the educational burden will only make life more difficult and perhaps even unhealthy,” Moore says. “Not everyone discusses this and as an adult you do not bounce back as quickly from the mental strain as you did when you were a 19-year-old.”

7. School will take over a significant portion of your life

Becoming a student again will be a big transformation for you, your family and your daily life for the time being. Don’t resist the cascade of change when it comes into your life — embrace it! It’s a sign of good things to come because of your hard work and determination.

“I wish I had known that education becomes an intimate part of your daily life, coexisting with you and your family 24/7 — until graduation day!” says Karen Gorback, author of Freshman Mom.

Now you know…

If you’re thinking of going back to school, you may feel like a fish out of water. But the truth is that adult learners are far from being alone. With these insights and first-hand accounts under your belt, you should be feeling more prepared than ever. Let the lessons of those who have been in your shoes serve as inspiration as you embark on this exciting journey.

At Harrison College, we believe every adult has the ability to improve their life through education. Check out our programs to learn how we can help you achieve your career dreams.

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