There are any number of reasons why adults may decide to go back to college, or even to go to college for the first time. Perhaps they worked a trade for many years and want to advance or pursue a new career path. Maybe they couldn’t afford college before, but now possess the resources to make a go of it. Whatever their reasons, there are very few “how to” guides that make allowances for the fact that adult learners exist and are interested in going back to school. The truth is that forty percent of college students aren’t teenagers at all, but rather, adults 25 years of age and older. These particular kinds of students may wonder how to go back to school or how best to plan for going back to college, while balancing their other obligations as an adult. Here are six tips for adult learners planning to embark on their college journey.
1. Pick a School That Meets Your Needs
One of the most common hurdles that adult learners face when going back to college is that they can’t simply quit their jobs or put their lives on hold. They may have a family to take care of or a full-time career. In this case, it’s important to find a college that supports these unique needs. Look for a college that offers flexibility to its students in the form of hybrid or online classes, the ability to begin coursework at various times of year, accelerated study formats, and/or evening and weekend scheduling options. In other words, look for a school that meets its students where they are.
2. Research Your Future Career
If you’re going back to school in order to make a career change, it’s important to know exactly what educational requirements are expected of you. For example, if you’re interested in pursuing a career as a dental hygienist, you’ll need to earn, at minimum, an associate degree. Knowing what degree is required of you before enrolling in college will help you choose a school that not only offers your degree, but also that has the resources to support you when it comes time to embark on your new career.
3. Meet With an Admissions Counselor
Before beginning your application process, consider meeting with an admissions counselor. If you’ve taken college credits in the past, they’ll be able to help discern which of those credits can be transferred and counted towards your studies. They can also guide you through the application process, in general. For example, they can walk you through how to submit transcripts from your high school or community college, whether or not you’ll need to submit test scores (e.g. SAT or ACT), and how many (if any) recommendation letters you’ll need to upload to your application. An admissions counselor can help take the mystery out of the application process.
4. Apply for Financial Aid
After applying to college, you should begin the process of applying for financial aid. You’ll be required to fill out and submit a FAFSA application. This form is used by schools to determine financial need, as well as expected financial responsibility of their students. Additionally, you should investigate what scholarship options are available to you through your school. If you’re a veteran, for example, your future school may have scholarship funds set aside for supporting veteran students. Many schools, including University of Bridgeport, also offer students merit-based scholarship aid.
5. Connect With an Academic Advisor
As a newly returned student, you may find that you’re a bit rusty at studying, writing essays, and preparing presentations. You may also find that you’re unsure how to arrange your class schedule. Before beginning your school year, arrange to meet with an academic advisor. An academic advisor can work with you to map out your college course load, keep you organized, and guarantee that you graduate on time.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
As an adult learner, you’ve likely spent your time away from college working and otherwise being independent. Returning to school may require you to turn to others for support in a way that you haven’t for some time. This may cause some discomfort, but keep in mind that your school has the infrastructure in place to give you the help you need as you transition from full-time work to studying. Your school’s Office of Student Academic Success can arrange for you to work with a tutor. As an adult learner who’s been away from school, working with a professional tutor can keep you on top of a study schedule and prepare you for test taking, research, and more. You can also benefit from career planning services, group study sessions, workshops and seminars, and other student support services. Learn about the student resources at UB here.
Going Back to School as an Adult
Going back to school as an adult has many advantages. Adult learners benefit from clear sight in terms of their career aspirations and educational goals. They also benefit
from having professional experience under their belts, in some shape or form. Compared to recent high school graduates, adult learners are more likely to dedicate themselves to their coursework, set goals in their college journey, manage their time wisely, and self-motivate while in school. Adult learners also tend to be more confident than their younger counterparts. This all translates to strong grades, more networking connections, and high readiness for a career after graduation.
Making the decision to go back to school is to be lauded. Going to college can prepare you for transitioning to a new career, help you progress in your current job, or simply broaden your perspective. While starting college from scratch as an adult can be challenging and daunting at times, it is well-worth the effort. You can excel in your career, drive your future forward, and benefit from flexible scheduling options along the way with the right school behind you.
It’s never too late to start your college journey. Apply for admission at University of Bridgeport and take the first step towards your future!