How to Go Back to School as an Adult: 7 Helpful Tips

Over one-third of the people who enrolled in colleges in 2007 were over the age of 25. The trend of nontraditional, older students going back to college has been rising in recent years.

Adults might go back to school to finish a degree that they started when they were younger, to change careers, to launch a second career, or for many other reasons.

Have you been thinking about getting a college degree but aren’t quite sure how to go back to school?

Let’s take a look at seven tips for going back to college as an adult.

1. Find a School That Accommodates Adult Students

One of the most challenging things about going back to college as an adult can be feeling like you stick out like a sore thumb. Being surrounded by much younger college students on campus is enough to make anyone feel uncomfortable. It can also mean that the counseling services that are available at the school are not relevant to their life situation.

For this reason, it makes a lot of sense to find a school that has a large population of older students. There are a number of schools that actively recruit adult learners. Pursuing one of the schools can ensure that you are around other people that are in a similar life stage as you.

2. Have a Clear Goal

While it is probably all too common for people straight out of high school to go to college “just because,” this is not a good enough reason for going back to school as an adult. You likely have many other responsibilities to deal with in your life and taking on the cost and the burden of going back to school for no particular reason is likely not something you want to do.

To be clear, though, personal enrichment is a perfectly reasonable goal to have that could be satisfied with going back to school. That being said, you simply don’t want to go back to school for the heck of it, as it can be challenging, costly, and time-consuming. On top of that, there is an opportunity cost and going to school instead of pursuing other possibilities in your life.

3. Get Your Finances in Order

Everyone knows that going to college is not particularly cheap. While there are a lot of ways of financing school and perhaps entering programs other less expensive, you want to make sure you understand both the hard and soft costs associated with going back to college.

You’ll want to budget ahead of time to make sure that going back to school is not going to be a financial burden you cannot stand. You can talk to a student advisor for the admissions department to find out if you’re able to qualify for financial aid or any scholarships.

It’s also worth mentioning that it’s possible that the education you are trying to get does not need to be received through a traditional college. There are many online courses available these days, and while some of them might cost money, it will likely be an insignificant amount compared to how much it costs to go to college.

There are many advantages and benefits of online classes. These can include scheduling flexibility, lower total cost, and more comfortable learning environment, pacing options, and geographic flexibility.

4. Take a Long Hard Look at Your Schedule

As an adult, your life is filled with tons of stuff you need to be paying attention to. Before you take the leap and decide to go back to college, you’ll want to take a long hard look at your schedule and make sure that you will be able to devote as much time to it as necessary.

You’ll want to check in with your student advisor to get a sense of how much time you’ll need to devote to going to class and studying. Think about how this really fits into your schedule in your life to make sure that you are not taking on more than you can handle.

5. Make Connections

One of the benefits of going back to college on a physical campus rather than online is that you have the ability to make connections with other students, alumni, and instructors. Do what you can to take advantage of the opportunity to network, as it can help you gain the employment you are looking for after you graduate.

6. Set Realistic Expectations

If it’s been many years since you were in school, it’s important that you understand that it will likely take a while for you to get used to the flow of things. Don’t be hard on yourself if it takes you a while to get comfortable and to get the hang of things again. It makes perfect sense that adjusting back into the college or them would take some time, so be kind to yourself and set realistic expectations.

7. How to Go Back to School: Have a Positive Attitude

Lastly, it’s crucial that you maintain a positive attitude if you are committing to going back to school. It is common for people to be incredibly optimistic as they are starting out only for that optimism to fade quickly. If you have decided that going back to school is the right choice for you in your career, however, maintaining a positive attitude will only help you on your journey.

Is Going Back to College Right For You?

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