Re-adjusting to Academic Life: Study Tips for Adults Returning to College

iStock_000000056471XSmallFor many people, making the important decision to go back to school is the easy part. Actually getting back into the swing of things and remembering how you managed your studies before can be a bit more challenging.

Don’t beat yourself up if everything doesn’t instantly come flooding back on the first day. Just like it took you some time to ease into professional life, becoming a student again is a transition. Take a look at these study tips for finding your way back into a productive academic routine.

Think about your learning style
Different people process information in different ways, so don’t panic if you can’t instantly recall all the information thrown at you in a class. This can be particularly overwhelming in the early days, so try to be prepared before you start. Think back to professional situations in which you’ve needed to process a lot of information. How did you find it easiest to learn? Some people like writing things out, some use visual imagery, and others read their notes aloud and record them on mobile devices. Find out more about different learning styles, identify yours, and stick to what works best for you. You’ll recall things easier if you approach it naturally rather than try to force yourself to remember everything after the first encounter.

Use your resources
Re-entering the academic environment with younger classmates can be intimidating. As a mature student, don’t let the fact that you may be older keep you from asking questions and admitting gaps in your own knowledge. Whether you’re attending college online or in person, get in touch with your professors however you can, and introduce yourself to establish a good working relationship from the start. Also take advantage of any extra help sessions the professor offers.

Going back to school as a responsible adult is a fantastic opportunity to do all those things you meant to do last time around. Read your course materials, take notes, and actually study those notes later. That’s what you’re here for, so remember to seize every available opportunity to learn and develop.

Write like it’s your job
Lengthy writing assignments can induce anxiety in college students of any age. Writing a thousand-word essay isn’t an easy endeavor, but if you approach it right, it can become more manageable. Treat each assignment like you would a professional task: identify your deadline and come up with a plan of action. Pace yourself to ensure you have enough time to brainstorm, conduct thorough research, put thought into your writing, and, of course, edit. Also, stay receptive to feedback—whether it’s negative or positive, it’s designed to help you reach your academic potential.

Take it seriously
Although it’s unlikely you made the choice to go back to school lightly, it can be hard to keep up that sense of purpose once you’re there. Years of practical employment can make studying seem slightly self-indulgent, or not as important as “real” work. This will be particularly true if you’re studying part-time or have a family, but it’s crucial that you make your coursework a priority to get as much as possible out of your experience. When you start to sway, revisit the reasons you decided to go forward with this opportunity to advance your education. Be sure that you’re scheduling in time for your studies, and although it’s bound to be hard, don’t let the other stuff get in the way of your routine.

For more in-depth tips on everything from preparing to study to completing major assignments and exams, check out the Mature Student’s Study Guide.

Looking for more tips or information on going back to school? Read more articles on the topic here.

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