College halls are being flooded with adults who are returning to school in their mid-life years. Online colleges have also made it easier for adults to further their educations in the midst of their busy lives. They choose to further their educations for various reasons. Perhaps, moms and dads need more education in order to move forward in their career or maybe the kids are older and mom wants to branch out and start a career. These nontraditional college students face different and more complex challenges than the younger student body.
Some other areas of difficulty might include juggling multiple responsibilities or feeling academically out-ranked or inferior. Many colleges offer special services catering to the needs of adult students in order to help them achieve their educational goals. Another more recent issue is the state of the economy. Starting college during an economic slump presents it’s out set of challenges. The Economy The sudden nosedive of the economy has actually caused a surge of adults returning to college.
The unemployment rate is on the rise and adults lacking a college degree are being left in the white collar dust of the more employable college graduates. Adults are finding that they have no alternative, but to roll with the changing tide of our economy and technology. This includes returning to college and earning a degree in order to find gainful employment. Some choose traditional colleges and many more choose online colleges. A few employers are wary of online colleges. They believe the student is paying for a degree rather than paying for an education.
Slowly, the doubt is dwindling and in many cases employers will contribute financially to employees who are choosing to further their education. Employers are beginning to realize the dedication and worth of employees who are willing to go that extra mile. (Armour, 2008) Adults who return to college are faced with many concerns that their younger counterparts are oblivious to. Two major issues are finances and family responsibilities. In many cases, adults have financial obligations such as mortgage payments, care payments, and providing for their families.
They must continue to earn a living and allotting time for family commitments while attending college. Sometimes these are single parents and sometimes they aren’t, but either way, if they have families then their lives become a juggling act. There are also other concerns. (Benahoff, 1993) Women with families often experience feelings of guilt in regards to their children. They feel like their shirking their parental responsibilities. They also worry about the cost of childcare and the quality of care that their children are receiving. Women are also concerned about maintaining their roles as wives and mothers while attending college.
(Benahoff, 1993) Men tend to be fearful of failing and they doubt their ability to reach their goals. Since men who return to college in order to change careers they experience a great deal of anxiety. They have responsibilities to their family and there is no room for failure since men usually view themselves as the providers. Men also experience frustration in dealing with the loss of time and the increased expense of attending college. (Benahoff, 1993) Attending School with Children It’s common for adult college students to feel uncomfortable in an environment geared towards younger students.
Many adult students have children nearing college age or already in college which can increase their feelings of awkwardness. As parents they are used to being in charge rather than on equal ground with young people. College kids usually have active social lives on and off campus while adult’s social lives revolve around their families and coworkers. Adults have limited time for socializing as well because of their responsibilities. These factors can intensify feelings of being out of their comfort zone. (Benahoff, 1993) Adult college students often lack confidence in their learning and study skills.
They find that methods of teaching and learning have changed a great deal since they’ve been out of school. That can be an intimidating experience for adults. On a more positive note, adults take their studies seriously. Their choice to attend college mid-life was a huge step. They perceive college as an investment and as such, there is a certain amount of risk involved. As a result they are focused and extremely motivated. (Benahoff, 1993) College students of the younger generation are very social and it’s no different when it comes to their study habits. They often study regularly and work on assignments with their peers.
Adults, however, often prefer to work and study independently because of their multiple responsibilities, busy schedules and time restraints. They don’t have time to linger on campus. (Benahoff, 1993) College Access and their Contribution to Success Admissions counselors should be readily available to advise adult students on courses and degrees that might be appropriate for them based on their current careers, areas of interest, or goals for the future. Providing this service would give adult students the reassurance they need that they are making the best choice by returning to college.
Colleges that provide financial aid advisors trained specifically to work with adult students provide an enormous service for what can seem like an overwhelming process. Financial concerns are generally a key issue with adult students and they need the guidance and advice of someone knowledgeable about their specific areas of financial concern. Student advisors to offer suggestions regarding such topics as time management, study techniques or any other areas of concern would help to give adult students the confidence they need.
Just knowing that there is someone they can turn to for advice when the going gets tough can provide much needed encouragement. Several traditional colleges offer online courses and access to resources such as online libraries. There are also a growing number of online colleges. Online availability provides easier access to adult students who are unable to attend classes on campus. In addition, many traditional colleges offer evening classes or classes in various locations off campus. This makes it easier for adults who may not be able to attend classes during the day and for those who need a closer location.
Colleges who work with communities and employers to stress the importance and the benefits of higher education for adults can provide that extra push for those who are considering advancement, but haven’t yet made the commitment. When they join forces with communities and employers, colleges can also learn how to better accommodate adult students. (Lumina, 2008) Academic and Personal Keys to Success There are steps adults can take to ensure that their college experience will be successful and that they will reach the goals they have set for themselves. These keys to success encompass both the academic and personal lives of students.
Academically, there are some specific things adults can do to aid them in adjusting to a college environment. It would be wise to take on a light course load for the first semester. This will enable a gradual transition for students. It will allow time for them to settle in to a routine and to find effective ways of managing their time, so they are able to keep up with coursework. Students who balance their course load by limiting the number of difficult courses in each semester and by allowing flexibility in class times find adjusting to college much easier.
Students shouldn’t hesitate to seek support or advice from their student advisor if problems arise. Enlist the support of one or two classmates who will give you the assignments if you miss a class and offer to do the same for them. Students should be sure to keep up with their reading and assignments. They should develop good study habits early on. If there’s a problem with a specific class or assignment then ask to meet with the professor in order to clarify things. These steps are no guarantee of success, but they are steps in the right direction.
(Office of Student Development and Counseling Center, 2005) On a personal level there are also some steps to success. First and foremost, adult students should have confidence in themselves and their abilities. While they may be lacking in academic experience, adults are ahead of the younger students in life experience. It’s essential that adult students get their priorities in order. They should gather support on the home-front, so they can concentrate on their studies while they’re in school. If need be enlist the help of friends or family to run errands or help with child care.
Make sure time is set aside for family. Adult students can even involve their family members in their study time. Younger children can work on a quiet activity like coloring or drawing whiles the parent studies. A spouse or teenage child can quiz mom or dad if they’re studying for a test. Most importantly, adult students should take time out for themselves. Taking time to relax and reflect on the days events is essential. Everyone needs time to unwind and rest mentally as well as physically. (Office of Student Development and Counseling Center, 2006)
Returning to college can be an enormous and seemingly impossible undertaking for adults who are in the middle of living their lives. It may not be the right choice for everyone, but for those who do choose to further their education there are wonderful benefits. A college degree may lead to career advancement that could result in a higher standard of living or it could provide a college education for their children. Adult students are role models for their own children as well as younger college students. Achieving one’s goals, regardless of age, is something to be proud of. Works Cited
Armour, S. (2008). Classrooms filled with returning adults. Retrieved November 20, 2008, from USA Today: http://www. usatoday. com/money/economy/employment/2003-06-12-backtoschool_x. htm Benahoff, J. M. (1993, November 11). Educational Opportunities, Developmental Challenges, Understanding Nontraditional College Students. Retrieved November 20, 2008, from ERIC Education Resource Information Center: http://eric. ed. gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/13/2e/33. pdf Lumina. (2008). What We Know About Adult Learners. Retrieved November 20, 2008, from Lumina: http://www.
luminafoundation. org/research/what_we_know_about_adult_learners. html#dimension1sub3 Office of Student Development and Counseling Center. (2006, January 13). Making the Adjustment School. Retrieved November 20, 2008, from Office of Student Development and Counseling Center: http://www. lsus. edu/sdcc/adults/making. asp Office of Student Development and Counseling Center. (2005, July 21). So, I’m a student again after all these years. Retrieved November 20, 2008, from Office of Student Development and Counseling Center: http://www. lsus. edu/sdcc/adults/so. asp
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