You took some college courses but, for one reason or another, you didn’t finish your degree. Now that you’re considering going back to get it done, you’ll be joining the growing ranks of “non-traditional learners,” largely adults, who comprise a fast growing percentage of U.S. college enrollments.
Returning to college can pose some unique challenges. Here’s a rundown of some key things you want to keep in mind before you dive into your degree program:
Get A Good Laptop and Keep It Charged Up at All Times: Students are more tech-dependent than ever now. Whether you’re taking your courses online or in a classroom, you need to be ready to take good notes, get your homework done and communicate with professors or other students whenever you have the time to. Remember your computer is your lifeline to learning.
Consider Some Refresher Courses Before You Go Back to School: If it’s been several years since your first go-round with college, it may be beneficial to re-sharpen certain basic skills. An English course can be a good place to start, because it’s so important to know how to organize and write a good paper in so many different types of courses. Basic college algebra and calculus courses may also be worth re-taking, so that you won’t feel hampered in any tech or science related courses you may need for your degree.
Get Very, Very Good at Time Management: You may have a job or even a family to take care of as you pursue your degree. That means you must learn to be absolutely ruthless about time management. Plan your days, but also be ready to use any free time that crops up to try and get ahead on your school work. It’s fine to plan some time off as you work through college – you might take a semester off here and there to take care of life responsibilities. But when you’re in the middle of classes, don’t let yourself waste any time. Make liberal use of calendars and time scheduling apps you can use on your laptop and phone.
Get Used to Studying Through Distractions: If you plan to have hours of quiet, uninterrupted study time you are likely to be disappointed. Try to get used to doing coursework at the dining room table and dealing with little problems that come up with the kids, the pets, the bills or whatever else comes up without getting pushed off your study schedule. Consider this a good motivation: if your kids see that you take school seriously and work hard at it, they’re more likely to do the same.
Build A Support Group: Make sure your family knows what you’re trying to achieve, and figure out if any of your friends can be of help. You may have a friend who is a wiz at math, or a computer geek. Let them all know that you’re going back to school and that you may need their advice now and then. Your kids may be the best source anywhere for knowing how to get the most out of the Internet.
Have a Plan B: If you have trouble with one course or find that you’re struggling to carry your course load overall, be ready to re-organize your schedule for next semester so that you can get everything done you need to. Sometimes this means your degree program will take longer than originally planned. But that’s OK as long as you get it done this time around.
Finally, Keep A Clear Picture in Mind of What You Want from Your Degree: The degree is not the end result. What you really want a clear idea of is what type of job you want to get, how much you can hope to earn and what type of work you will be able to do when you finish college. Keeping a sharp focus on that as you go through school will help you avoid wasting time and focus better on the parts of your degree program that give you real, usable skills.