Just because adults going back to school may have more life experience, it doesn’t mean they don’t need the same support as traditional college students.
Going back to school can be a difficult adjustment after years spent working professionally. People making this choice are often independent workers, and may struggle with the notion of turning to others for help. In turn, many professors, advisors, and others at higher education institutions hold the misconception that since adult learners are more self-sufficient, they require less support than 18-23 year olds. But, let’s face it, the path to an advanced degree is arduous regardless of age, and adults returning to school face many additional challenges, like work, bills, and family commitments.
So, where can adult students turn for advice, encouragement, or just to bounce around some ideas? It’s important, and not that difficult, to build a diverse support network to help you get through your academic program.
Don’t Be Shy—Engage with Your Peers
Often, the best kind of support comes not from official resources, but from other students. The old maxim, “a problem shared is a problem halved” rings true in academic settings, and your peers are the people most likely to empathize with your struggles. Adult students aren’t supplied with the non-stop social life traditional students enjoy, but there are still opportunities to connect. If you attend classes on campus, strike up a conversation after class, invite a few of your peers to coffee, or if you’d rather make things more formal, arrange a study group. If you’re an online student, you can connect with peers through online discussion forums, chat, or through the seemingly limitless social media channels available online. Don’t be afraid to reach out, it’s likely your peers will appreciate your support as well.
Keep an Open Dialogue with Instructors
Developing rapport with instructors is an invaluable way to gain support down the line. You might feel awkward opening up to a professor you’ve just met or only communicate with online, but communication is the key to being a successful student. Instructors will be more inclined to help you when you’re struggling if they get to know you and can recognize your enthusiasm in a course. Communication between student and teacher is particularly essential when it comes to success at the graduate level, where a lot of the focus will be placed on you to get work done in your own time.
Take Advantage of Campus Resources
Most academic institutions are rife with resources to help students succeed, but they’re often overlooked by adult students. Regardless if you’re an on-campus or online student, you can get assistance from campus writing centers, career services, academic advisors, and more. Services are usually free or covered by fees, so it won’t cost you anything but a few extra moments of your time. And that can pay off in the long term.
If you’re an adult going back to school, it’s vital to build a support network to help you academically and emotionally. Juggling coursework with the rest of your life isn’t easy, but if you work on establishing relationships and utilizing campus resources, it can make your academic journey a much smoother ride.