Adults returning to school usually have the whole “life” thing down. They’ve been in the workforce for some time, perhaps have a family to look after, and, unlike some traditional college students, know how to pay bills and finish projects on time. But no matter how much you think you’ve got it together now, starting school again can feel like a hurricane just hit your smooth-sailing, grown-up pleasure cruise.
Yes, the stress of studying can make the most responsible people forget to apply some basic life skills to their educational pursuits. So here’s some practical advice to keep in mind to ensure you keep your adult wits about you and succeed when going back to school.
College is what you make of it
Ken Bain’s recently published book, What the Best College Students Do, profiles a selection of lifelong learners, noting the common patterns that relate to their success both in and out of college. Through real-life examples of renowned celebrities and thinkers, Bain provides advice on how to approach college, no matter which “type” of learner you are. His overall message is that it’s not which school you attend, but what you do during your course of study. He suggests students focus on promoting active learning, asking questions, and striving to retain information, rather than scoring high grades. Although grades are important, being able to practically utilize what you learn is far more beneficial in the long run.
Spend your time and money wisely
A few years ago, Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman published an award-winning guide to higher education called The Secrets of College Success. In it, they approach college as an experience from which students will only benefit if they’re willing to put in a lot of time and work. The book promotes taking control of your education and treating it as an investment, for which many students are paying a substantial amount. After a student’s first class, the book recommends assessing professors to see if they fit your needs as a student. Studying hard in order to pass classes and not have to re-take them saves you time and money, as does waiting to declare a major or specialization until you’re 100% certain about it. In the authors’ view, time and money are just as precious as college education itself. So try to employ a clinical, businesslike attitude to your studies from day one.
Consult college staff, and use your resources
Fox Business writer Emily Driscoll cites underwhelming education rates in both public and private universities as reasons to develop good study habits. She recommends using on-campus resources like advisors, teaching assistants, the library, writing centers, and career services staff. Driscoll also emphasizes the importance of career planning while attending school. It’s useful for all students, but perhaps especially working adults going back to college, to enroll in courses that not only fit their chosen curriculum and count toward a diploma, but that also interest them on a personal level. Most colleges offer a wide selection of additional classes that may not completely correspond with your specialization, but can help you to expand your understanding of the world and develop as a person. Form relationships and keep in touch with your professors, as this will prove invaluable after graduation when you begin applying for jobs and need advice on interviews as well as glowing recommendations.
Just because you’re able to handle a mortgage, a job, and raising kids, all those things can make going back to school more complicated than it initially seems. That’s why it’s so crucial to keep even the simplest advice in the front of your mind.
Do you have questions or advice on making a successful return to school? Share your thoughts in the comments below.