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Aug 11, 2015

An Adult’s Guide for Preparing to Go Back to School

Congratulations on taking the first step toward a new future. Returning to school after years or decades in the workforce is an important decision, and it’s one that can lead to exciting opportunities. Mature and non-traditional students usually return to school for three reasons. You might want to finish your degree, advance your credentials or change careers. Unfortunately, adult students face many challenges, such as balancing work and family, adjusting to student life and brushing up on academic skills. Nevertheless, good preparation will give you the best chance for success. If you’re enrolling in college this fall or plan on taking classes in the future, here are a few tips to prepare.

1. Iron Out the Financial Details

College tuition, school supplies and textbooks are major expenses. If you’re cutting back on your work hours or going to school full time, you might need some help paying for college. Loans, grants and scholarships are available through several sources. First, you should complete the government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. You can also receive assistance through student aid associations in California or Oregon. Finally, ask your school about scholarships that are available for your degree program. Remember that other financing options are available to military service members and veterans.

2. Think about Logistics

In most cases, you won’t just be going to school. You’ll be taking care of your family, working, cooking, cleaning and doing many other things at the same time. If you’ll be cutting back on your hours, make sure that your class schedule aligns with your new work schedule. If your kids need to be at school or daycare, make sure you can still get to class on time. If your kids are sick, make arrangements so that you can count on a friend or relative to take care of them. Keep a central calendar online or on your fridge so that you can keep track of school events, exams and outside appointments for your whole family.

3. Choose Your Classes

Study the class catalog, and talk to a student counselor. Completing a degree quickly is important, but you might not want to enroll in a full course load if you have a lot of other things happening. It’s fine if you want to be a part-time student instead. Enrolling in a limited number of classes can help you balance your life and give more attention to each course. Make sure your classes fit your schedule. Many colleges offer night and weekend classes that allow you to continue your work and other obligations.

4. Test the Waters

Before you jump into a full course load, take time to prepare. You might want to adjust to student life by visiting a few classes before you enroll or by taking a few non-credit courses. If you’re unsure about a certain subject, such as math, check out a few books from the library to brush up on your skills.

5. Be a Good Student

It’s true that many students who have struggled in the past achieve academic success as adults. This might be because mature students know more about their strengths, weaknesses and learning style. As an adult student, you can apply the skills that you use at work to your college assignments. You might be good at sticking to deadlines, listening or breaking complex tasks into manageable sections. These skills can be invaluable during your studies.


As an adult student, you might have a few disadvantages, but you have many advantages as well. Remember that it’s never too late to accomplish your goals.