There are many reasons older adults (aged 30 or older) go back to college. Some want to remain competitive in the workplace as certain jobs become obsolete and highly-skilled graduates enter the workforce. Others want to advance their career and take on a higher position that requires more education. And there are many that go back to school because they want to finish what they started and it is more feasible for them to study now.
Whatever your reason may be, going to college or returning to college as an older adult can be a huge adjustment, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve last been on a college campus. Nevertheless, there are plenty of ways you can make the transition period easier, starting with these ones:
1. Choose your program carefully
You’ve probably had years to think about what major you want to take when you go back to school, but it won’t hurt to consider other choices. Sure, that degree you were supposed to take when you were eighteen may have been in demand twenty years ago, but is it still as relevant today as it was before? Maybe job opportunities for that degree are scarce now, or perhaps the school you’re eyeing is not the best when it comes to teaching that program.
On the other hand, maybe there are newer programs that are better choices for your career advancement. And if you want to switch careers, say, become an EMT, you need to select a program with high-quality EMT classes and courses to increase your chances of job placement after graduation.
2. Consider your learning style
Each person has his or her own style of learning that works best for them. But if it’s been years since you were in an educational setting, you may not be all that familiar with the learning style that works best for you. That said, look back at your career experience so far and think about the ways you’ve processed information most efficiently. Identify your learning styles, stick to what works best, and then apply them to your classes when you go back to school.
3. Avoid setting excessively high expectations for yourself
Just because you are older than the rest of your classmates doesn’t mean you have to know more than them or be able to pick things up faster. When you are in the classroom, think of yourself as an equal to the other people around you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or get extra help from your professors when needed. If you expect too much from yourself because you are an older student, you may very well be setting yourself up for disappointment.
On a similar note, manage your expectations about unit loads and graduation times. Unless you don’t have a job and a family to take care of, you have to juggle your studies with many other responsibilities at work and at home. That said, you may have to take fewer classes than your peers at school, which will likely result in delayed graduation, which is perfectly okay.
It can be intimidating to socialize with younger people, but once you get past that, interacting with your peers is a great way to make your transition to college easier. Your classmates can also help you with the course work, especially if you are not as tech-savvy as the younger generation and don’t know how to submit work on the professor’s online portal. And more importantly, they can be a source of joy and companionship, which can definitely make your college experience more memorable despite it not being traditional.
5. Fix your schedule in advance
Even if you’re only taking two or three classes per semester, it can still add a lot of work to your already busy schedule as an employee (unless, of course, if you are putting your career on hold), more so if you already have a family of your own.
To avoid getting overwhelmed by the demands of your multiple roles in life (student, parent, employee, business owner, etc.), start optimizing your schedule well in advance and ensuring that you have enough time for each of your obligations. More importantly, do not forget to schedule time for rest, recreation, and time with your friends and family.
Returning to school as an older adult can be a scary experience–perhaps even scarier than going to college as a teenager. But as long as you set your sights on your goals, you should be able to overcome every challenge that comes your way and finally graduate with a much-awaited diploma.