Going back to school as an adult is full of challenges. Wondering how you’re going to work fulltime and take care of your family while trying to remember how to take a test can be overwhelming. But, it doesn’t have to be.
If it’s been a minute since you cracked open a textbook or studied for a class, ease your anxiety with these tips from PACS students that will help make your college encore a rousing success:
1. Get financial help.
With the exception of time, older students claim money is the biggest obstacle when it comes to returning to school. Don’t let money alone keep you from reaching your goals. The resources to help finance your education are there, if you know where to look.
In addition to scholarships, grants and student loans, consider other options like payment plans, work-study programs, tuition reimbursement from your employer and even tax breaks. There are also special resources for veterans and military personnel.
“I didn’t apply for financial aid for the first two years, because I was convinced I made too much,” said University of Oklahoma College of Professional and Continuing Studies (PACS) student Chase Crum. “I thoroughly regret that now, having qualified the last two years.”
“Sooner Heritage has been very helpful, and they are willing to work with PACS students,” said student Beatriz Ramirez.
2. Take online classes.
When you’re juggling school with other responsibilities, choosing a program that’s flexible is key. Online classes or hybrid programs will allow you to work and go to school. PACS offers a variety of degree options that accommodate adult learners.
“If you want it bad enough you’ll find the time, and PACS makes that very easy,” said Crum.
Alicia Thomasson is pursuing dual master’s degrees at the OU Tulsa campus, but online classes through PACS helped her get her undergraduate degree.
“I loved the ability to complete my remaining (undergrad) classes online,” she said. “PACS gave me the opportunity to be where I am now.”
3. Maintain a healthy life balance.
Remember, you aren’t 18. You’ll be juggling many responsibilities along with school, so self-care is critical. Make sure you stick to a healthy diet and get enough sleep. Your brain needs sleep to process all of that studying, and test scores are much higher when you sleep.
Studying and work are priorities, but you also need to carve out time for fun and family. Also know when to ask for help.
“I know that support with kids is a must,” said PACS student Jazz Heard. “My fiancée will take the girls on long trips, do activities and give me some space to get things turned in on time. That’s half the battle for me, because my 7- and 2-year-old girls don’t care about a due date. They just want to play with dad before bedtime.”
It requires extra time and focus to create balance. If you map out your week and plan ahead, you’ll find going back to school much easier.
4. Know your goals and motivation.
Why are you returning to college? Are you hoping for a job advancement or a career change? Keeping your goals in the forefront of your mind will give you the extra push you need when things get hard.
“It takes a measure of faith, and a good part of that faith is believing in yourself. That’s the biggest battle of all,” said PACS student Jennifer Porter. “Take inventory of your motives and unspoken wishes, and then decide if you’re willing to sacrifice your time to achieve any of them. You have to have that deeply grounded desire to move forward, because as an adult you don’t have parents pushing you forward.”
5. Don’t let your age define you.
When it comes to being an older student, know that you’re not alone. A growing number of adults are returning to college or attending college for the first time. In fact, nontraditional students may soon outnumber traditional college students.
Participate in online forums and get to know others in your classes, and you’ll find many students aren’t that different from you. You’ll also likely discover that your life experiences are an asset to your classmates.
Porter, who returned to college nearly 40 years after receiving her associate degree, said she had no choice but to get a bachelor’s degree.
“After I lost my job and couldn’t find work, I was told by many people I would have a difficult time finding work because I’m older,” she said. “I was skeptical that I would be any good at schoolwork after being away from school for so long, but I kept searching for online degrees that were even remotely interesting to me.”
Porter discovered the PACS bachelor’s degree in administrative leadership program and has found the inspiration she needs to keep moving toward her degree.
“I’ve already taken eight classes and have enjoyed them all,” she said. “I like the discussion forums most of all, because I enjoy interacting on an intellectual level with just about anyone who will respond to me.”
Whether you’re going back to school for yourself or for your family, remember you’re working toward a better life. When you follow these tips, you’ll increase your chances of reaching your goals.