Guest Blog: Tips for Adults Returning to College

In this final posting of the month, I’m passing along an article that was sent to me by Erin Palmer of U.S. News University Directory, who noticed one of my recent articles on mid-career educational decisions and thought this additional information might be useful to some of you out there considering this possibility!

Tips for Adult Learners Considering Returning to College
Guest Post from Erin Palmer, U.S. News University Directory

So you’ve decided to return to college.  Maybe you’ve been stuck in the same position without an opportunity for advancement, or maybe you postponed your own education to raise your family and now you want to get back in the game.  Perhaps you were one of the unlucky workers who were laid off due to the decline in the economy and you’re now looking for ways to prove your worth to potential employers, or maybe you’d just like to switch careers.

Whatever your reasons for returning to school, it’s important to understand that you are not alone. Students over the age of 25 now make up 47 percent of the new and returning student population on many college campuses, according to the Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education.  While returning to school may look good on paper, in practice the logistics can be rather challenging.

The following guidelines are a good place to start and should give you some solid direction.

Clarify why you are returning to school. You’re about to invest a lot of time, energy, and money into an education, so it would be best to clearly identify what you hope to accomplish with this endeavor.  Staying up until 2 a.m. to finish a term paper or study for an exam is at best tiring and at worst torturous, so it’s a good idea to know exactly why you’re putting yourself through all of this.  Are you trying to earn a degree to go back to work?  Enhance skills you already have?  Take personal enrichment courses to supplement current hobbies?  Unsure exactly what you’re trying to do?  Consider speaking with a career counselor or conducting some of your own career research online.

A great website to explore careers is the Occupational Outlook Handbook, an occupational database that provides career descriptions, training requirements, and salary and labor market outlooks.  Many colleges offer career counseling to potential students as well. Contact the college you’re considering to find out if this is a possibility.

Evaluate educational options that are accessible to you.  Not all education is created equal, and what type of education you pursue should be directly related to your personal goals.  Chances are, there is a community college within driving distance, or there is a higher education institution offering online courses – many graduate degrees can be obtained through online study as well.

Make sure the college you’re considering is regionally accredited, and if you’re planning to pursue a career that requires state licensure or national certification, like a Registered Nurse, make sure the training program is accredited by the proper credentialing bodies, as well.

Meet with an academic advisor.  Any college you attend will have specialists who can evaluate any previous college experience you’ve had and make sure you receive applicable credit for those classes.   Once you’ve completed your school’s admissions process, make it a priority to meet with an academic advisor to make sure you’re only taking the classes you need to take.

Seek out support.  With so many adult learners returning to school, many colleges have started forming student organizations to specifically fit the needs of their adult learners.  These organizations will not only help you meet some of your fellow students, but they may also provide support and valuable training on technology, time management, and school-life balance.  Don’t overlook your college’s writing and tutoring center either, and take advantage of study groups offered in class, online, and by the college library.

All in all, there will be a period of adjustment for both you and your family as you get back into the swing of taking classes.  Remember to balance school with work and with leisure activities, and understand that other areas of your life may need to take a temporary hiatus while you’re devoting time and energy to pursuing your education.  Stick with it – it will be more than worth it in the end!

Guest article provided by U.S News University Directory an education portal where adult learners can locate degree programs from top colleges and accredited online schools, as well as, hundreds of online education articles, career videos and more!


2 Responses to “Guest Blog: Tips for Adults Returning to College”

  1. Starting a business is just as risky as spending the money on higher education – but I get where you are coming from.

    And don’t forget about Governmental tuition assistance and grants/scholarships.

  2. As someone who made a significant investment in education to change careers and improve career prospects in the last 4 years, I would strongly caution anyone investing or borrowing funds for additional education to carefully research and consider whether or not the goals you are seeking will be likely to result in a return on your significant investment of funds in education, particularly graduate or professional education. Tuition continues to escalate and the job market has not rebounded to “normal” levels of unemployment, so if you need to be able to repay or recover your large financial investment in obtaining additional education, you may not be able to do so in the near term (or even longer term depending on whether the economy ever bounces back).

    Think before you spend is my advice! There may be ways of changing your career path that meets your goals without spending large sums of educational dollars or time on pursuing a degree. Despite the fact that there are more “nontraditional” students on campus these days, I did not find faculty to be particularly welcoming toward nontraditionals at the graduate school I attended, and the 20-something crowd was similarly not interested in working together with nontrads in group projects, i.e. working with someone their parents’ age rather than in their own age group.

    I often wish now that I had invested my educational money in starting my own business, as it would have been a nice financial foundation to take my career in a newer direction without wasting time and money on additional education that has not produced a return on investment for me. Until the job market recovers (assuming it will), then I’d suggest being able to use your newly acquired education to launch yourself into business as it may be unlikely that an employer will want to hire you as there are already lots of highly educated, qualified candidates in the job market currently. If you know someone who will hire you or lead you into a job, that might be a surer bet that your investment will be repaid/recovered with your gaining entry to the career path you’re seeking.

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