Earning a college degree is hard work, but becoming a student again after being out of academia for a while can add a whole new level of difficulty to the process. Unfortunately, many guides on going to college are geared towards the “traditional” student: teenagers who have recently earned their high school diplomas. That leaves everyone else, otherwise considered to be “nontraditional” students, left to fend for themselves.
Going back to school can be incredibly rewarding. Whether you’re going back to earn a second degree, want to re-enroll after dropping out of a program previously or are interested in going to college for the first time later in life, here are five tips to help you succeed.
1. Find Your “Why”
Traditional students benefit from the continuing momentum they have from recently completing high school. They also tend to have fewer “real world” distractions, like growing families, full-time jobs and immediate financial obligations, that keep them from hitting the books. However, if you’ve been out of the school groove for a while and are juggling other responsibilities, it’s a good idea to identify your biggest motivations for wanting to go back in the first place.
Do you want to make a career change? Do you need another degree to move up in your current line of work? Is there a field of study you’re dying to dive into? Whatever your reason, find ways to incorporate it as a reminder throughout your journey. You can write it down and post it in your study space, save it as a note on your phone or computer, or share it with your friends and loved ones so they can encourage you when you need support.
2. Identify Your Ideal Schooling Scenario
There are a wide range of paths you can take to earn a certification or degree. It’s important to think about exactly what outcome you’re pursuing, as well as what your most affordable and time-saving options are for getting there. Along with your “why,” consider the following:
As you explore your options, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Ask career counselors, academic advisors and mentors to help you zero in on the best type of schooling for you. If you’re continuing your studies to help you in your current position, review things with your supervisor to make sure you’re getting the exact training your workplace is looking for.
3. Think Through Tuition
One of the biggest obstacles to education for both traditional and nontraditional students is money. Fortunately, there are still ways for adult learners to save on school costs:
4. Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Worried that you’ll feel out of place when you’re back on campus? You’re definitely not alone. In fact, nontraditional students are much more common than you think: about 20% are over 30, 25% are caring for children, and 47% go to school part time at some point during their studies.
Despite the statistics, many adult learners find themselves worried about keeping up with the workload. In addition to leaning on your friends and family for support, be sure to use all school resources available to you. Take advantage of your professor’s office hours, and keep in touch with your academic advisor. Don’t forget to contact your school’s student support offices to learn about tutoring, writing and mentoring services.
5. Manage Your Time
At some point or another, many nontraditional students find themselves trying to answer the age-old question: how do I find the time to do all of this?
Coursework, full-time jobs and family responsibilities can be tricky to balance, but it’s not impossible to do it all. Try these tips to make it happen:
More Advice on College
We may not be able to give you a degree in financial literacy, but we can give you more money knowledge while you work towards graduation day. Check out these blogs from Top Dollar: