Higher education: 10 tips for returning to college as an adult

Returning to college as an adult requires a major transition. These 10 tips will help facilitate this transition as you or your spouse returns to school for career advancement or a new career.

When I returned to school as an adult, no one provided information as to what to expect with this endeavor. Yet, having to return to school for retraining for a new career, I experienced some challenges, frustrations and excitement. Learning about financial aid, completing assignments and making time to study has required a lot of adjustments. However, the end result has been rewarding. Here are 10 tips that would have helped me in the process.

Complete financial aid ASAP

Colleges post their deadlines for when financial aid needs to be completed. Ensure that you have all the necessary information and documentation for your financial aid application.

Meet with an academic advisor

Before you register for classes, set up a time to meet with an academic advisor. Most colleges provide an advisor in the specific fields of study. This is important because they can help you plan out what classes to take in what quarters (some classes are only available one quarter or in select quarters throughout the year). An academic advisor can help you determine what courses to register for to effectively plan your academic program.

Plan your study time wisely

We all have obligations that pull us in several directions. Achieving your education is another obligation to add to your busy schedule. Effective time management becomes a necessity in order to have success. Do not worry about pushing things out that may stand in the way of achieving your ultimate goal — securing better or new employment. The common consensus on study time is to spend at least 4-to-6 hours a night studying (See this article by Cornell College on how much time should you devote to studying). One of the best ways to manage your study time is to review the syllabus and identify the approximate dates that each subject matter will be covered and what the due dates are. This helps you determine how much time you will need to complete each milestone. As you find time to devote to your studies, also make sure you have a place to do your school work where there are no distractions.

Take advantage of technology

Most colleges are now Hybrid. This means that part of the classroom instruction and interaction is done online as well as within the classroom. This type of structure allows students to participate in discussion boards, submit assignments online, and see their grades. It’s important to ask questions and use the college resources where they provide guidance in how to participate in online instruction.

Stay on top of your studies

You will often discover that you will have to cram to get assignments turned in. In some cases, you might even fall behind or have to miss a class or two to get caught up. Quarters typically last 8-10 weeks and the time does fly by pretty fast.

Seek out help early on

It is OK if you occasionally have a difficult time with the subject matter. School is hard. It is best to seek out help from a tutor. Most colleges should have some tutors on staff that are adept with the subject matter. Another resource is fellow classmates, and a study group. Participating with classmates in study groups will help facilitate better comprehension of the material.

Constant communication with faculty

College professors are professionals. They are not there to babysit or remind you of what needs to be done. Therefore, if you are struggling with a course, seek out assistance from your professor. Professors announce their office hours and availability for both drop-in and pre-scheduled appointments. Take advantage of these times and get one-on-one instruction.

Take time out to enjoy life

Learning is not easy. There are stresses with learning. One can sit for so long and read, write and work on assignments. It becomes very taxing. Taking time out to enjoy life is beneficial. Removing yourself from the rigors of study will help take your focus off of studying and onto something worthwhile. When you return to your studies, you will have a fresh mindset and perception.

Get enough rest

While in school, your schedule may have to change and become flexible. The one thing that you should not be flexible about is sleep. Getting enough rest not only helps you be healthier, it enables you to be present and alert throughout a classroom lecture.

You will eventually finish

Many adults return to college for retraining or to acquire a necessary certification in their particular field of employment. In the beginning, it may seem long; however, your investment in this endeavor is worth it. School will eventually come to an end and will become a milestone in your life. At the beginning of your academic program, prepare to do what you need to do to achieve your goal whether it’s a certification or a degree.

Returning to college is a challenge because of significant schedule changes and the need for time management. With the proper planning and dedication, you will be successful.

Originally Published at FAMIFI on March 29, 2013

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