Going back to school at 30 is not the same as going back to school at 20. Here are 30 things you need to know to succeed in your education endeavor.
Gone are the days of pencils and notebooks, so get with the digital age and bring a laptop or iPhone to class. That way, you’ll have notes saved and easily accessible for studying.
2. You will need confidence.
Go into your education program believing you will succeed. Otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up to fail.
3. You will have options.
Nowadays, you can opt to school online, sit in a traditional classroom, or take advantage of the blended approach, which offers the best of both worlds.
4. You will be in good company,
More and more adults are heading back to school, reports the National Center for Education Statistics: overall participation in adult education increased from 40 percent in 1995 to 44 percent in 2005.
5. You can get financial aid.
Even if you’re enrolled in a trade school or certificate program less than half time, you may still qualify for financial aid. Find out more at www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov.
6. You will need to make use of downtime.
When you’re commuting to work or school, read your textbook. When you’re driving, listen to lectures on your iPod. When you’re waiting in line at the supermarket, review flashcards. Make every minute count.
7. You will be a hot commodity.
Professors appreciate students with life experience, especially those who are motivated to work hard and put their education to use.
8. You will need exercise.
It may sound counterintuitive to spend your precious free time at the gym now that you’re back in school, but exercise releases endorphins and increases blood flow to the brain, which enables you to work smarter.
9. You may be able to get credit for prior learning.
Through prior learning assessment, you may get college credit for experiences such as corporate training, experiential learning, travel, volunteer work, and more.
10. It will be a struggle.
Now that you’re an adult with responsibilities other than schoolwork, it can be more difficult to focus on your education. Expect the challenge so you’ll be prepared to work through it.
11. This time around, you will be better at it.
When you’re 30 instead of 18, you have a much better idea what you want out of your degree and out of life. You can count on being more driven because you know what you’d like to achieve.
12. You may be eligible for tuition assistance.
If your education program is related to your job, your employer may reimburse you for all or part of your tuition, which makes your education goals that much more attainable.
13. Traditional students will look up to you.
You have the opportunity to be a role model to younger students who gravitate toward you because of your life and career experience. Be an example to them by persevering in earning your degree.
14. The outcomes may be more immediate.
At 30, it’s likely you already have a job and a career track, so your degree may translate into more immediate outcomes like a promotion or the ability to make a successful career switch.
15. You will need clear goals.
As an adult student, it may be easy to give up your education dreams when you get discouraged. That’s why you’ll need to remember exactly what you plan to accomplish by committing this time of your life to studying.
16. You will need some tech skills.
Chance are you already know your way around a computer, but if you don’t, now’s the time to enlist a friend to help you brush up on your skills. You don’t have to be a tech genius, but you will need to understand e-mail and basic software applications.
17. You won’t be the oldest one.
According to the Census Bureau, students 35 or older comprised 15 percent of people enrolled in college in 2007. They made up 7 percent of the full-time college students and 36 percent of those attending part time.
18. You will need a strong support network.
If you have a family, make sure they’re on board with your taking time away from them now to build a better future with them. If you’re living with friends, make sure their activities won’t distract you from your studies.
19. It’s a smart move in a recession.
Though a recession might not seem like a good time to spend money on school, it’s actually the perfect time. In addition to its personal benefits, education can put you ahead of the running when you’re competing for a coveted position.
20. You will need to be your own boss.
When you were younger, your parents checked up on your grades to keep tabs on your progress. Now you’ll need to assume the adult responsibility of policing yourself.
21. The age range will be diverse.
You’ll be surprised at the age range when you go back to school. You may find yourself in a class with students anywhere from 18 to 88 years old (and beyond!).
22. You will need to work harder.
More adult responsibilities mean you’ll need to study harder in less time. But many students find they actually work better with less time to stretch out their assignments.
23. You may have to say “no.”
You may not have the luxury of working all week and blowing off steam on the weekends anymore. Supportive friends will understand your dedication and commitment to your education.
24. You don’t have to erase your entire social calendar, either.
You may need all the study time you can get, but your brain will function best if you make some time for fun. Plan periodic breaks to maximize productivity and avoid burnout.
25. You can’t be afraid of loans.
Taking out loans can be daunting, but an education loan is an investment in your future. And education has proven to produce a strong return on investment.
26. You may have to ask for help.
Take people up on their offers to help by asking them to watch your kids, walk your dog, mow your lawn, go grocery shopping, etc. When you give people the opportunity to support you, you’re enabling them to contribute to your success.
27. Student services will be available.
Many schools offer support services targeted to busy adults. Take advantage of the counseling and study skills sessions provided and allow the school counselors to help you keep your studies on track.
28. You will have two jobs.
Yes, school is like a job. You have to make it a priority, and you may even have to put in overtime. Viewing it as less than a real job will only do you a disservice.
29. You will need to reach out.
As an adult student, you will probably have to make more of an effort to reach out to your classmates. But these relationships can help when you feel alone in your education endeavor.
30. It will pay off.
According to the Census Bureau, in 2008, workers with a bachelor’s degree earned about $26,000 more on average than workers with a high school diploma. Education has a proven payoff.