How to Go Back to School as a Working Adult

Going to college at any age is intimidating. Questions about your capabilities and competence bounce around in your head. How will you fit in? How will you manage the workload and perform to the best of your abilities? How are you going to handle everything going on in your life?

There is added pressure going back to school as an adult. You’re balancing real responsibilities - paying the bills, working your 9-5, maybe making sure the kids are fed, and you’re maintaining a relationship with your spouse. But working through college is just a season in your life. You can manage it. You can accomplish your goals and dreams. 

1. You’re not alone.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 33 percent of the 18 million undergraduate students in the U.S. are over the age of 25, and 22 percent are over the age of 30. Non-traditional students are becoming the new normal.

UCLA’s Professor of Education Mike Rose’s research shows that almost 45 percent of postsecondary students in the U.S. did not enroll in college directly after high school. While everyone’s reasons and path is different - you are not out of the ordinary in going back to school.

 
2.  Develop a support system.

In any long, difficult journey, it’s always better to travel with a companion. As you begin your coursework, identify who in your life is going to be there to walk with you. Obvious choices include a spouse/significant other, your parents, or your professors and advisers, but also look to the people within your degree program. Don’t be afraid to reach out and lean on one another.

While you’re working your way through your classes, use every tool at your disposal.


 3.  Build camaraderie.

If all you do is show up to class, turn in your assignments, and check the box, you’re leaving a lot on the table in your college experience. Your fellow students and peers are an opportunity to connect - personally and professionally - and are a wealth of knowledge and experience you might not have.

Invest in your classmates. Take the time to learn from them as much as you’re learning from your professors. Just like you, they have outside experiences and perspectives that can be invaluable to others. Use it to your advantage.

 
4.  Learn to study with distractions.

Distractions are everywhere. It’s an American reality. But they might be a little bit different for non-traditional students. The text message alerts and Facebook friend requests are there for everyone. You have looming work project deadlines and hungry mouths to feed. Use your support system, lean on them to help with your responsibilities. Carve out time that is dedicated to schoolwork and studying - even if that means late nights and early mornings.

Determine what works best for you, and stick to the routine that allows you to focus on your studies.  

5.  Control what you can.

Working, going to school, maintaining a home, keeping healthy relationships - it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Keep your focus on things you can control. It’s a line everyone has heard a million times. For someone who is seemingly balancing a tightrope while juggling a dozen flaming batons, this advice is crucial.

Manage your time. Do your work. Do your best. Don’t borrow tomorrow’s worries today. Your coursework is temporary, but the results and benefits are lasting.

 
6.  Relax.

A healthy you is the best gift you can give the people you care about. Make sure you are allowing yourself mental health breaks and actually take the time to decompress. Your friends and family will recognize you’re busy working and going to school, but don’t neglect your relationships or your downtime.

A life change like going back to school as a working adult seems intimidating and daunting. Don’t allow the doubts to plague you and keep you from pursuing your goals and dreams! Take one step at a time and run your race! The benefits of going back to school and enhancing your education are worth enduring and conquering the challenges before you.

Amberton University is designed for the working adult. Courses are flexible and provide  non-traditional students with an environment that is conducive to success.

For an alumnus perspective on how Amberton worked for him, click for the video here.

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