Back to School Checklist for Working Adult Students Returning to College
From finding the money to finding time, working adults going back to college face different challenges than traditional students. Here’s our checklist for issues you can expect and how you to handle them.
FIND FINANCIAL AID
Though some working adults pay for college strictly from earnings, some may qualify for loans, grants, and even scholarships, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Adults can also take advantage of 529 college-savings plans for themselves. Many awards start with completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Good colleges will have financial services advisors to help you track this and other paperwork. It’s also important to set a realistic household budget that allows for school-related expenses.
TRACK THOSE TRANSCRIPTS
If you’ve gone to college before, you want to make sure those classes count. Unfortunately, this process isn’t always smooth. Students have to be proactive in tracking down transcripts. Starting early and leaving time for complications is better than a panic if things bog down unexpectedly.
GET CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
These days, time spent in the School of Hard Knocks can count. Some colleges offer prior learning assessments that give credit for corporate training or seminars. You may easily enter college as a sophomore from these credits alone but, just as with transcripts, it’s best to take care of this as soon as possible.
DRESS YOUR DESK FOR SUCCESS
Make sure you have the equipment you need. It’s possible, particularly with Ashford Mobile, to keep your online classes and materials right at your fingertips. But you’ll also need a working smartphone or tablet and Internet access. Make sure you have a plan.
EXPECT A LEARNING CURVE
Many adults have gone years without studying which means skills such as note-taking likely will be rusty. Be patient with yourself while you get back in the groove.
BUILD FROM A GREAT FOUNDATION
If math wasn’t your best subject in high school, chances are those skills haven’t improved with lack of practice. If you struggled with writing, it’s likely to still be a challenge. But know that there is help. The Ashford University Writing Center is one great resource. It’s there whenever you need it, whether you’re making sure you cite your sources correctly or want to brush up on basic skills.
GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS
According to EdTech magazine, 60 percent of online college students work full-time and 68 percent chose an online college so they can balance work, family, and school. If you’re a working adult, you will find yourself among true peers in both classwork and lifestyle. Reach out to classmates you meet through discussion groups and Facebook pages. They’re invaluable for support as well as for help with questions.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Build down time into your schedule, whether it’s making sure you never miss your kid’s Little League game or joining co-workers for happy hour once a week.
CREATE A DETAILED PLAN – BUT BE READY FOR UNEXPECTED CHANGES
A 2012 paper titled “Changing Course” by the Babson Survey Research Group found that 88 percent of academic leaders believe discipline is more important in online programs than in traditional classrooms. Schedule study time just as you would anything else in your life. But recognize that emergencies will crop up – kids will get sick, and a work project will take more time than expected. Be patient with yourself while you recover from a temporary setback.
Going back to school as a working adult isn’t going to come without any challenges or hurdles. Planning ahead, getting organized, and implementing some of the tips above can help you stay on course with your education if things start to get a little bumpy. Just remember, any hurdle can be overcome, and it’s usually the most challenging hurdles that are most worth it.
Written by Ashford University staff