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Going Back to School as an Adult: Make Your Experience a Success!

written by: •edited by: Carly Stockwell•updated: 6/30/2014

When thinking about choosing a college, most people think about a High School Junior or Senior, or a recent High School Graduate. However, many students are above average when it comes to age and their circumstances are completely different.

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    Two Main Problems Facing Adult Students

    Choosing to Go Back to School as an Adult Lack of Resources

    While in High School, students have many resources available to them at their fingertips: guidance counselors, teachers, peers, and parents. But what happens when an adult wants to return to school? Many times those built-in school networks or parental support no longer exists. Student adults need to tap into their professional network, as well as alumni and current enrolled students of the university they are considering.

    Lack of Financial Assistance (And Time)

    An undergrad generally has parents helping finance their higher education, either with tuition, room and board, or even parent loans. Parents also usually take their teenager to college visits, a vital part of the decision making process, but an expense which can really add up. In addition, financial aid from colleges varies, and often the most aid goes to recent high school graduates.

    Not only are adults not getting as much financial assistance, their schedules are limiting due to work and family commitments. Many adults choose to go to school part-time in order to be able to keep working. Online classes and other flexible options can be a life-saver for adults in this scenerio.

    For the best success, student adults should map out a timeline of obtaining their degree, and rework their budget accordingly.

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    How to Make Your College Experience a Success

    When going back to college as an adult, consider these points in order to maximize your time and money:

    Gain On-the-Job Experience

    No matter how much you "think" you'll enjoy a certain career or profession, until you're actually in the daily grind of it, you cannot be sure. Many professions look glamorous on paper, only to actually prove to be boring and unfulfilling. For example, a dream to be a teacher and mold and shape young minds of the next generation may be shattered with the daily rigors of classroom preparation, curriculum, and grading. Only until you have experienced the field even for a short time will it give you a realistic picture. For those fields that require a masters level degree or are physically demanding like nursing, even volunteering will be helpful in deciding whether to pursue that route or not.

    Research Your Post-Grad Career

    Don't have tunnel vision when it comes to earning your degree. While that may be a goal, the end goal is securing a satisfying career. Know what kind of licensure is required by state for certain fields such as education and nursing. Know current industry trends for the most profitable career. And know how to write your resume and interview well.

    Research the Specifics of Each Degree Program

    Some colleges and universities have stricter qualifications for internships. Most majors require an internship of some type, so knowing this ahead of time won't give you any unwanted surprises once you've invested time and money into a program. Also check out course listings per semester for an in-depth look prior to committing.

    Don't Give Up!

    Going back to school as an adult presents different challenges than as a young adult. While there may not be as many resources for an adult as there are for students, with the proper research and preparation, adult students may be just as, if not more, successful than their younger counterparts. Maturity and life experience provides a fortitude and commitment to higher education that may not be found in young students fresh out of high school.


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