You may have tossed around the idea of going back to school more than once. But every time you think about how your job, family and life in general will drastically change, it seems next to impossible to include college into your future plans. The impact your decision may have on your loved ones may only increase your stress and fear further. Perhaps you wonder if you’ll be able to succeed this time.
But you aren’t alone in your decision. In 2012, out of the 18.1 million students attending an American college or university – 8 million of them were 25 years old and over.
How are these adult students getting over their fears? Sure, their motivation to go back to college may be rooted in its potential advantages – a better job, increased income or a completely new profession. But maybe there’s something else. Maybe they’ve figured out the key to going back to college and succeeding this time.
Instead of wondering how they did it, here’s how you can do it.
1. Talk to your family.
A strong support system will prove essential to your college success. Discuss with your friends and family how your decision to return to school will impact everyone. Be clear with your spouse or kids that they may need to take over specific household tasks and responsibilities so you can commit time to your schoolwork. At the end of the day, you’ll find that your loved ones are more than willing to make sacrifices to help you reach your goals.
2. Consider your lifestyle.
Think about your needs and preferences as a busy adult. Chances are, they are much different than those of your early college days. Maybe a classroom full of peers or pulling all-nighters just doesn’t work for you anymore. Perhaps you prefer to work independently so you can learn at your own pace. Or you would rather wake up early on Saturday mornings and finish schoolwork so you spend the rest of the weekend with your kids. When you understand your learning needs, you can better develop a routine that will help you balance all your important commitments.
3. Pursue your passion.
How many times have you heard the advice, “Love what you do, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”? Of course, it’s probably more half true; when you love what you do, then learning will come easier to you.
If you select an area of study or major that fascinates you, your curiosity and interest in it will only fuel your success. Instead of being pressured to make a career choice at 18, now you can consider a career path on your terms. You may find that your hobbies, volunteer opportunities or talents will inspire you to pursue a completely different field professionally than you studied before.
4. Accommodate your obligations.
It’s not uncommon to worry about how going back to school will fit into your already hectic schedule. That’s why enrolling in a college that fits your priorities is key to finishing your degree. Find a college that understands your family and career commitments by providing flexible courses that do not require traditional classroom attendance. Consider programs that have generous transfer credit policies so you can maximize any credits you’ve earned before. Also, some schools will let you take a break or request a course extension for personal or professional reasons - without financial or academic penalties.
5. Stay positive.
Continue to motivate yourself in your studies, even if you begin to feel discouraged at times. At first, finishing your degree may seem like a long way off, but you will get there.
And remember, every finished assignment, exam and chapter read is one step closer to graduation day.
Written by Thomas Edison State University