Back-to-School Tips for Adult Students
It is back-to-school time not only for kids but for adults, too!
If you are going back to school as an adult, give these tips a read before you get started.
What if you have kids?
Balancing your life with school is difficult enough and going back to school as a parent might seem overwhelming. But with a little planning, you can get your degree, diploma, or certificate while still being there to help your kids. Many adults who are going back to school are also parents with school-age children.
Why adults go back to school
Reasons why adults are going back to school include:
- Earning a degree to move up in their career
- Training in a specific area for their current job
- A career change
- Pursuing studies that may not have been available earlier
- Learning about something they are passionate about
- Going to school because they were not able to earlier in life
- Preparing for a new role in their organization
- Standing out from others with a similar background
- Pursuing an entrepreneurial role
Back-to-school tips for adults
Going back to school as an adult requires a significant amount of preparation. Use these tips as a starting point.
Explore schools near you
Unless you plan on moving, research the schools in your area. Find out what the admission requirements are or if they are open admission.
Start the process early
Apply several months before you would like to start and find out whether testing is required and if you can use previous credits, volunteer experience, work experience or military service as credits.
Organize your finances
Education can be expensive but is a worthwhile investment. You may have to cut your hours at work while taking on the extra expense of school, so create a budget and postpone large or unnecessary purchases.
Expect an adjustment
New routines and responsibilities can be stressful, so take some time to adjust. You may feel intimidated by going back to school but your life experience can help you learn faster. Remind yourself of your goals and why you are going back to school.
Choose a manageable program
One of the most important decisions you will make is choosing a program that is manageable for you. If you need to keep working while you are in school, consider distance education, flexible course schedules, part-time, evening or weekend, or self-paced programs.
If you can take time off from your job, consider accelerated programs, but know that you will need to spend a lot of time outside of class on homework and reading.
Consider certificate programs
Non-credit education in fields like project and program management is gaining popularity and programs are shorter and more flexible. They build on your existing education and are meant as the next step in your career.
Advanced-degree programs are an option
This will be more of a challenge, but you can get started by finding out which courses you need to apply and if your undergraduate courses are enough.
Review the course syllabus and note deadlines, exams, and due dates. Make a schedule and stick to it and avoid procrastination by having a classmate or friend hold you accountable.
Have a study space
Create a dedicated study space where you can work without interruption. You may work best in silence or with some background noise or at a certain time of day. Figure out what works best for you and build a study space around that. Go to the library or another location if you cannot have a study space at home.
Get enough sleep
Build enough time for sleep into your schedule. Almost half of Canadians sleep less to get more done when they are pressed for time. But sleep deprivation leads to chronic health problems like diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Set aside enough time
Many students underestimate the time they will need to successfully complete a post-secondary program. Ask the school for an estimate of the time you will need for each course. Part-time might be more manageable if you have kids.
Ask for help
Ask your partner, family, or friends for help with childcare while you are taking courses. Find out if the school has an organization for parents who are students and connect with other parents there. You can take turns hosting playdates so everyone has time to study.
Find schools with adult students
Find schools that have a large percentage of adult students. These schools will provide benefits to parents and full-time workers. Contact their admissions office and find out if the school would be a good fit for you. Some schools may even offer child care.
Know there will be sacrifices
You may have to spend less time with your kids or change your lifestyle. But in the end, it will be worth it because going back to school will benefit your whole family.