Thomas Edison State University By Thomas Edison State University • May 3, 2016

5 Smart Strategies to Overcome the Fear of Going Back to School

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas A. Edison

If several years have passed since your first try at college, it’s natural to feel anxious about going back to school as an adult with more responsibilities and obligations. Or you may remember all too well the pressures and demands you experienced while trying the first time. Whatever your motives for leaving, or hesitation to return, if these fears are the only reasons holding you back from your professional and personal dreams, know that you now have more control to complete your degree on your own terms. You are older, wiser and far more motivated and prepared to return. There is always time and opportunity to try again. After all, it took Thomas Edison 10,000 tries to come up with a commercial light bulb that worked. So if you’re ready to finish what you started, use these 5 strategies to overcome your fears and try just one more time.

Talk With Your Family

Getting support from your family to understand how your decision to return to college will impact daily life for a while is a crucial step in your success. Sit down and discuss with them why you’re pursuing this goal and how important it is to you. Be clear about any help you may need around the house and how much time you’ll have to commit for schoolwork. A strong support system, with plenty of encouragement along with way, will prove essential to your mental and physical wellbeing.

Gather Your Resources

Having homework assignments and exams as an adult, in addition to your already busy life, may at first seem intimidating. Add registering for courses, finding textbooks and participating in class, and then it becomes an overwhelming sense of panic. But, as a busy adult, you have access to specialized resources that will help you with your unique needs. Need a tutor at 2:00 a.m.? Try Want to take your final exam in the comfort of your own home? Use ProctorU. These essential student resources can help make school life easier.

Pursue Your Passion

Perhaps family pressures to follow in others’ footsteps influenced your first degree attempts, or maybe you just weren’t interested in the program of study. But now, you may have found a career you are passionate about, a hobby that you would love to delve into professionally full time, or volunteer work that opened your eyes to a new life goal. There’s no need to worry about getting the highest grade or meeting familial expectations anymore, because, if you are passionate about what you are learning, you are more likely to succeed. Love what you do, and the learning will follow.

Think Positively

Attitude will be everything as you approach your studies. Keep up your motivation by focusing on your one main goal, finishing your degree. Remember that every class, every assignment, will get you one step closer to your goal. Take these inspirational words posted by student Michael Burns on LinkedIn, “Just begin. Take the first step. Time is your friend, not your enemy. Right now you just need to focus on the beginning, not the end. At a later point in time, when you look up, you will see that you have completed more classes than you have remaining. At that point you will be inspired…. You will know that you will finish.”

Prioritize Your Time Commitments

You may be thinking, but where will school even fit into my life? Assess first what your obligations are to family, work and everything in between. Choose courses that allow you the most flexibility to meet all those responsibilities and any school expectations. Consider programs that have generous transfer credit policies so you can maximize your previously earned credits. If you need to take a break from course work for personal or professional reasons, find out ahead of time if that is an option for you. But whatever you decide, make a schedule and stick to it.

This article was originally published in September and has been updated for accuracy.  

Thomas Edison State University

Written by Thomas Edison State University

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