Tips for Adults Getting Back into School

The longer you’re out of school, the harder it is to go back. This is not just an adage or a cliché, it is the truth. For years I lived in a college town and saw students drop out for work (or for pleasure) and pledge to return to class, and very few ever did. When I stopped attending classes, I was taking a “short break” that ended up being over a decade. And the only reason I ever went back was because of distance education.

Things are different for the adult student, photo by Jennifer Kumar

There are a lot of you out there in the boat I was in – maybe you took some college at some point, but never got that degree. Or maybe you got the two year Associates degree but always wanted to upgrade to a Bachelors. The longer you have been outside of school, the harder it is to take the step to get back into it… and after that, it is just as hard to adjust to the mentality of being a student, and the responsibilities it carries with it.

This is a quick list of a few tips for successfully making the jump back into school:

The Right Mindset – Having a job makes money. Going to school costs money. It’s very easy to focus on the money, especially if you are working and attending classes at the same time. This will keep you from graduating. Treat school like it’s a job: those deadlines are as important as work deadlines, class sessions are as vital as meetings. Treating school as a means to an end (“well if I graduate I’ll be able to make more money at my job”) will keep it from becoming a top priority in your mind. Get your mindset straight, and make school a priority, or you may not finish.

Make Quiet Time – The convenience of distance education leads many people to think they can just study in their spare time. Not true. Sitting in front of the television with a book open is not conducive to good grades. Reading a text book, or class notes, while your kids are running around will keep you from committing things to memory. Spending your coffee break reviewing a lecture is a good thing, but won’t carry the weight. You must set boundaries for yourself, and create quiet time to entirely focus on your class material.

Study the Calendar – Know when all your important dates are (tests, papers, classes, etc) and make sure how they correspond with your actual life. Birthday parties, working shifts, family vacations, and the like can all interfere with your study schedule. Plan ahead so you are always a step ahead.

Read Read Read – Put down the TV guide and the gossip rags, and start reading books. Reading books within your field of study is going to be the most beneficial, but getting into the practice of reading anything at all will help you in the long term. The more you condition yourself to read, the better you will be at retaining knowledge.

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