So your children are heading back to school and perhaps you are thinking it might be a good time for you to do the same. Choosing to return to studying, whether it is finding the funds or worrying about the tests, can be stressful for adult learners. Getting extra qualifications or taking a few adult courses can boost your skills and increase your earnings, a very smart move in this current economy. These five tips for adult learners returning to education will help ease your nerves and make your life easier when thinking about gaining qualifications.
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1. Get Financial Help and Student Support
Ensure you make full use of the student support services that colleges offer to you. They are there to help you; they can tell you about refresher courses to update your skills and transition programs to help you ease back into your studies. They are even available to help with scheduling, books, or technology needs. Unless you have has a sudden influx of money, then financing your education is probably going to be an issue for anyone going back to studying. Funding and scholarships are not just for young students, they are available to all students. Ask the institute you attend what kind of financial aid they can offer.
2. Learn Online
These days you have an option of many adult online courses to get a higher education and additional qualifications. The average age of online students is 36, and 60% of these virtual learners are women. You can attend class without even having to leave your home, and they also run for approximately eight weeks as opposed to the traditional courses which can run sixteen weeks. With online courses you have a lot of options, and of course, accreditation is very important as you want your course to be considered valid by both employers and other colleges if you choose to transfer.
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3. Refresh Your Skills
There is a lot of writing to be done whilst studying, whether it’s taking notes, re-writing notes, or writing essays and term papers. You may have to refresh your memory as to the formal rules and formats when writing college-level assignments. Also, take time to consider your learning style; there are three recognized learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Once you know your learning style, you will be able to determine the best study method to help you succeed. Studying is all about learning how to think independently, reasonably, and rationally. You should also refresh your critical thinking skills to remember how to analyze information and debate opinions effectively.
4. Work-Life Balance
Perhaps you have a full life already—a full-time job, a relationship, children, or maybe a home to care for. Now you’re going to have to manage your studies with your already busy schedule. Assign yourself study time, and if something comes up during those hours, politely decline to ensure you keep up to date with your studies. Don’t let guilt get in the way. It’s ok for you to give up some of your responsibilities to go back to your studies. Talk to your family and discuss your options, maybe someone else can take on some extra responsibilities for the time being. There are ways to compromise, remember your family members are around to help and support you. Be specific about what you’re going to need, whether it’s time to study in a quiet space or their commitment to help out. The key is to get everyone invested in your goals; after all, it will benefit everyone in the long run.
5. Manage Your Fears
Perhaps you haven’t stepped foot into the classroom, for what? 25 years. A common thought is that you may think you cannot compete with these younger students. However, the truth is these younger students are intimidated by you. You should consider all the advantages you can bring to your course because of the years you have spent working and gaining other skills. Your previous job and volunteer work may have given you the essential computer, writing, foreign language, or other skills that can give you an edge over younger students. Or, it may only be your transferable skills, such as organization, time management, focus, interpersonal skills, and tenacity that will put you ahead of the crowd. Remember that what you take for granted in your daily life is often what younger students are lacking.
Helen Sabell works for the College for Adult Learning, she is passionate about adult and lifelong learning. She has designed, developed and authored many workplace leadership and training programs, both in Australia and overseas. Helen also works with a select group of organizations consulting in People Management & Development, Education and Change.