Adults Returning To School

For adults returning to the classroom to enhance their job skills, this article provides some guidelines to help them make the most of their continuing education.

Hundreds of thousands of American adults are returning to the classroom to learn new skills, or to polish up on old ones. Some are continuing their education for personal satisfaction, such as those who are finally committed to earning a bachelor's degree after many years. While others are finding it necessary to take new courses to remain viable in today's competitive work force. Whatever the reason, if you are one of the many adults finding yourself preparing for another round of education, here are some tips that will help you to make the transition (and hopefully the experience) a smooth and pleasant one.

First, know your reason for continuing your education. I place this above the common first step of goal-setting because the reasons for adults continuing their education are so diverse. Be able to answer the question: 'Why am I doing this?' In this way you will be properly motivated to reach your goals. By the way, it's never to early to decide what materials you may need for the journey. You will probably find that much has changed since you last stepped into the classroom. In fact, some of you may be considering on-line or correspondence courses. In that case, the classroom comes to you!

Second, set realistic goals for yourself. If you are returning to college to earn a bachelor's degree 20 years after graduating high school, you will need to give yourself a little time to reacclimate yourself to the educational environment. On the other hand, if you are taking courses for personal enhancement (such as a cooking workshop or sports class) then just relax and enjoy the experience. Don't apply pressure to yourself to be the class valedictorian. This is also the time to determine how much is too much. Are you a working mom, an out-of-work machinist, or an overzealous entrepreneur? Be perpared to make wise use of your time.



Some courses may involve prerequisites (such as algebra being required before trigonometry) so be sure to ask a career counselor about them. Certain courses have additional lab fees or require students to purchase additional materials. This is usually included in the course description, but ask if you're not sure.

Third, use your advantage as an experienced adult. You have chosen (perhaps grudgingly) to use the avenue of education to better yourself. Don't be intimidated by those students who are half your age. You have definite reasons for attending your classes. Remain focused on them. You are not in school just to earn a grade, you are there to define a part of your life. In fact, don't be surprised if the instructor calls on you for real-life examples of classroom material. You have a distinct advantage over some other students because you can associate the education with real experience. You may be pleased at the number of younger students who want to know you better for what you know better.

Fourth, use all of the resources at your disposal. This includes getting to know your instructors and counselors and ASKING QUESTIONS. Teachers expect you to ask questions and often use your feedback to direct subsequent lectures and class exercises. Remember the old addage 'the only stupid question is an unasked question'? It still applies!

Fifth, finish what you start! I can't emphasize this principle enough. For many the reason why they are now attending school is because they were either unable or unwilling to stay the course earlier in life. Many people re-enter the world of education simply to provide a sense of closure by finishing an abandonned education from years past. However, if this is not the case for you, it is still important for you to complete the program, even if it means 'toughing it out'. Believe me, your satisfaction upon successful completion of your goals will be well worth the effort.

Sixth, plan to look ahead. That's right! Education for many adults is contagious. Once you see what you can accomplish with a little extra effort you will be more likely to continue your education. Who knows? Maybe you will earn that Ph.D. one day. Or perhaps you'll finally learn to hit that golf ball like a pro!

Seventh (and last of all!), enjoy what you have done! So you didn't get an 'A' this time. That's ok. Do you know more now than you did before? Take a little time to celebrate and reward yourself (and the family that has put up with you for the past 4 months). After the celebration make an assessment of where you stand as a result of your new education. Decide if more is better, or if you are content with your current status. By the way, you can't enjoy this step if you don't complete step #5!

Feel free to use the material in this article as a kind of checklist to help you get the most out of your educational experience. Best of luck!

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