Elizabeth Gehrig By Elizabeth Gehrig • February 12, 2018

Why Adult Learners Tend To Make Better College Students

Am I too old for this?

This is something many adult learners ask themselves. So chances are, you have asked yourself this very question, too. It’s an understandable thought because going back to college as an adult can be intimidating.  

Sure, maybe it has been awhile since you’ve written a paper or taken a test. Or, you are wondering how you will fit your course work in with all your other commitments.

However, as an adult, there are things that make you a far better student today than you would have been 10, 20 or 30 years ago. In fact, you may have more of an advantage as a mature, self-directed adult than you did as a fresh-faced high school graduate. 

So instead of wondering if you’re too old to go back to college, consider that now might be the best time ever for you. Here’s why.

Your Life Skills Are Top-Notch

You’ve been around long enough to gain some invaluable life skills. You probably have had to balance time between work and family, and learned to communicate with many kinds of people in all kinds of situations. You have developed a myriad of creative ways to handle what life throws at you. Think of it this way:

Ever had a work meeting, dentist appointment, sick kid and flat tire all at once? But, miraculously, managed to handle it all?

Yeah, I thought so.

You’ve learned how to arrange your day, prioritize and ask for help in a way that enabled you to get it all done. Only experience can help you hone those life skills, and your time-management, communication, problem-solving and organizational abilities are critical to your success as a college student. They are exactly what you need when you’re outlining a final paper, getting advice from your mentor and collaborating with your classmates on a group project or discussion forum. These are also the skills you’re using on a daily basis at work as you outline a new project, get advice from your boss and collaborate with your colleagues on a new project.

So feel confident about the skills you bring to the table, whatever the assignment, exam or project because you’ve been through this before.


You Know Yourself Better Than Ever Before

Don’t forget: with age comes wisdom. 

As an adult learner, you know yourself better than you did when you were a teenager. You have the maturity to understand what you need and to know when “what you need” has changed. You can figure out how to get what you need and are motivated to get it. You act more purposefully, and you can keep things in perspective. 

By now, you also know how to leverage constructive criticism to your advantage, and you won’t be deterred by speed bumps along the way.


You Have Years of Field Experience

You probably have a well of knowledge in a particular field because you already have a long-established career. Your professional experiences and job skills, including any lessons you learned the hard way, are all pertinent to your academic work. 

Even if you are taking a class in a subject that seems unrelated to your field, you’ll use your analytical, creative and other intellectual skills to address the new subject from your unique perspective. This will give your academic work greater depth. It will also make your papers, projects and exam essays more compelling.

Undoubtedly, your fellow adult classmates and mentors will learn from your experiences. And since they, too, are professionals with a wide range of backgrounds, their insights will be useful to you as well. Taking classes as an adult, with other adults, can be a rich and rewarding experience for everyone involved. 

So instead of focusing on how long ago it was that you were in high school or college, think about how far you’ve come. What can you do now? What do you have to offer? Because you will find that you are a valuable asset to your college community.

Elizabeth Gehrig

Written by Elizabeth Gehrig

Elizabeth Gehrig is a senior assessment development specialist in the Center for Learning and Technology. Passionate about high-stakes testing, her career spans more than 10 years in language testing, credit-by-exam and outcomes assessment. Email her at clt@tesu.edu.

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