Back to the books: Tips for mature students

Enrolling and attending college can be a challenge for anyone, but for an adult student, heading back to class for the first time in a few (or many) years can be especially nerve-wracking.

Work-life balance issues, new technology and other demands on an adult student's time can cause them to question their ability to succeed with yet another obligation on their plate. However, the potential rewards-career growth, increased earning ability and a growing professional network, among others-can make the serious commitment needed worthwhile.

If you're thinking about continuing your education as an adult learner, consider these tips to ensure your success.

Ask questions

The ability to ask questions and communicate issues is incredibly important for student success. It's always okay to ask for help or clarification, whether it's a question about an assignment, a new technology, or how to balance work, family and school commitments.

Find out about the availability of resources such as the institution's writing center, career counseling services, networking opportunities, childcare options and other resources for adult learners. Make it clear to professors, advisors, counselors and administrators what you need from them. They're there to help, but they won't know what you need if you don't ask.

Set goals and stick to a plan

Set attainable goals: long-term goals, like finishing your classes with an 'A,' and short-term goals, like weekly reading, reflection or writing assignments. For adult learners juggling responsibilities beyond the classroom, time management tools-many of them free, like Trello project management, Google Calendar or Evernote—or distraction avoidance apps, can be a lifesaver.

Assemble your support team

Attending college as a working adult is a team sport. That's why it's important to build a healthy support system to help you achieve your goals with less stress. Friends, family, neighbors, classmates, faculty, staff...make sure each person on your team knows their role and how they can best serve the team.

You'll certainly need alone time to focus and study, plus you may need help with childcare, household chores and other everyday tasks that have to get done. Even if someone's unable to help physically, they can serve as cheerleaders to support you on your journey. Keep in constant and clear communication with your teammates-and know that they have your best interests at heart and will do whatever they can to help you succeed.

Most of all, believe in yourself

Going back to school as a working adult, often with a job and a family, is no easy task. It's the beginning of a new chapter that can lead to a better life, and those who successfully complete the journey should be proud of all they've accomplished. Don't let fear and self-doubt creep in. You've already done so much; you can absolutely accomplish this degree.

Remember, getting started is the hardest part. Take action now and apply to the college or training program you want, select your major, and sign up for classes. Will there be bumps in the road? Absolutely. Nothing worth having comes easy. But with your determination to problem-solve, persevere and learn, you're bound to succeed!

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