“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” – Mandy Hale
I know how difficult going back to school as an adult can be. I have been teaching a first-year college experience course at a local community college for the last 7 years, and have seen first-hand the struggles and self-doubt that many people face.
My class this semester is a mix of students right out of high school, a few who have been working for a few years, and several mothers returning to school now that their kids are a little older. I also have three students that have been out of school for over a decade, and want training for a new career. Most of my students want a career and don’t want to live paycheck-to-paycheck anymore. They want training and an education that will lead to more career stability. A few have said over the years they just want to have more career options. There are many people like you out there.
One of my students is a mom to three girls, works full time, and is getting married for the second time. She realizes that getting a degree is what will move her out of her current paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle. She wants a career so she can better support her kids and herself. She does a lot of her coursework at night after her kids go to bed; which is hard on her, but she knows it is the only way to make it work. She also schedules time with her girls on the weekends just for them. Her girls look forward to their weekend time with mom, since they know they will have her all to themselves. Making sure to schedule time just for loved ones is one technique I recommend to a lot of students who are trying to balance family, life, work and school. This is the most important time of all in your life, so you mustn’t sacrifice it.
Another student of mine is returning to school after being away for 20 years. He is in the middle of a career transition and needs a degree to prepare himself for his next career. When he graduated from high school, he had a full-ride athletic scholarship to the college of his dreams to play football. He ended up getting married and having a child the summer before he went to college. He put his college career on hold to support his new family. Five kids, two marriages, three moves later, he is finally back in school. He was a good student before, but he had to re-learn a lot of the material that came easily before—especially math. He has questioned his decision to go back to school many times. He is exhausted and struggling to balance his time. But he is doing well in school, and that is keeping him focused on his ultimate goal of earning a college degree.
No, earning a degree is not easy. But I have seen these students, and many others like them successfully achieve their academic goals in spite of the challenges and self-doubt.
Remember, there are many people out there who have many of the reservations you might have. I hear the same questions every semester:
- Can I do this? Am I smart enough?
- Do I have time to fit school into my schedule?
- Will I fit in? Am I the only one with kids? With a job? With baggage?
- Do I have the discipline to do the homework?
Any of these sound familiar? Well, the answers are actually pretty clear, if in fact going back to school is something you really want.
- Yes, you are smart enough. Remember you have life experience that will help you as you navigate classes and learn new material.
- Yes, you can fit school into your schedule. Even if you work full time or have kids, there are options that will work around your schedule. Many schools offer online and distance programs that allow you to do your coursework wherever and whenever it’s convenient for you.
- Of course you’ll fit in. Your life experience is what makes you “you.” You will bring a richness of life experiences to each class and to each class discussion.
- Again, if this is something you truly want, you will make time to do the homework. And if you have kids, you will become their greatest role model as you pursue your educational goals.
Sure, it is important to be realistic about the challenges you’ll face when going back to school as an adult. Just be sure not to let them scare you away from pursuing your full potential.
If you’re thinking about returning to school, see just how ready you are to make the change in your life.