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The Many Roles of an Adult Student

written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 6/1/2010

With age, comes great responsibility. Adult students differ from regular students because of the crucial roles they play, not just in school but in real life. Discover the roles of an adult student and find out more about the life they live, which is far different from the rest.

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    Adult Student

    The roles of an adult student are complicated. For typical students, going to school at times may be stressful, always memorable, but never out of sync; everyone is destined to go to school at a certain age. This is expected but everything is different for an adult student.

    Adult students are older for their courses, yet they have more motivation to go back to school. Some adult students have unfinished business left behind, and they have returned years later to fulfill their mission. Some adults merely want to be a student again to earn an additional degree; while others may have stopped before graduation to prioritize other needs or opportunities and later decided to go back to finish school. Adult students can be classified by age demographics to be at least two years older than most students for their current educational level.

    The difference of the adult student from a regular student is not just age, but on the roles they have to juggle.

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    The Studious Student

    The regular student is often heard complaining about how hard school tasks are when all that is expected from them at their age is to just study. What other responsibilities are there for the adult student who has various priorities in mind? Still, their role as a studious student must be taken seriously. The adult student already has the maturity to understand the importance of an education and degree.

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    The Student as a Family Member

    As an adult, they are given full obligations at home. Sometimes, the adult student is the inevitable caretaker of the entire family, from parents, or siblings, to his or her own family, wife, husband, or kids as well. They are the ones who are being depended on rather than the one depending on their parents. Their role is now more crucial than before and is constantly expanding. however, they are still carrying a double load - family member and student.

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    The Student as a Worker

    Most adult students undertake part-time work and schooling or vice versa. The major reason why a student stops schooling is because of financial difficulties. It is expected that the returning adult student is sustaining a job, aside from studying.

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    The Student as a Community Member

    Despite a full schedule in school, at home and at work, the adult student still has obligations to the community, to friends, to neighbors, as a taxpayer, as a legal citizen, or simply to the people outside the stressful corners: friends. This means juggling yet another role with that of being a student.

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    How to Cope Up With These Adult Student Roles?

    An adult student returning to school will surely experience a different environment and lifestyle compared to when they first attended school. Other adult students' negative reactions may include blaming others for their sufferings due to their inability to manage different adult student roles.

    To properly handle this situation, one must be aware of the changes that occurred during his time and present time including students' attitudes, lifestyle, school rules, and regulations. In order not to forget important activity, an adult student must have written plans to organize daily schedules including career meetings, school projects and of course, family time. No one is expected to instantly adjust to this situation, but it is very helpful if an adult student will use negative experiences to gain valuable learning. Talking to family or friends is also a very effective way of managing stress and heavy workloads. Share, also, your school schedule with your spouse and children so they will understand when you can't attend special events. Always feel capable and never lose hope when disappointing situations occur.

    At the end of the day, it’s certainly exhausting to be a student, especially the adult student. The roles of an adult student can be daunting indeed, but fulfilling each and every responsibility is achievable. In the real world of the adult student, juggling roles is about maintaining balance with family and faith as sensitive and breakable. Never give up, everything will be certainly all right in the end.

    You may also want to learn more about the benefits of going back to school as an adult.