College Admissions

What You Need to Know When Going Back to School as an Adult

Working Adult College Students

It’s never too late to obtain a degree, but going back to school as an adult can be difficult. As an adult, you may have many other responsibilities that your (much younger) fellow students don’t have, such as a full-time job, career or parenting responsibilities. Even if you can devote yourself entirely to being a full-time student, you may still feel like a duck out of the water. Whether you’re jumping into a four-year degree program, or you think it might be a good idea to take some online classes. Here are three things you need to know when going back to school as an adult.

Talk to an Advisor before Registering or Enrolling

As an adult, your educational needs will most likely be strictly academic rather than both academic and social. While an incoming college first-year student might benefit from living on campus and staying at one school for all four years, your best option might be to take online classes at a community college before enrolling at a four-year institution. Speaking with a college admissions counselor may help.

Also, Collegewise counselors are passionate about “creating customized plans and setting deadlines to ensure that students complete their applications and essays thoughtfully, effectively, and early.” 

You May be Exempt from Some Classes Based on Experience

Adults have the benefit of work experience that most first-year college students do not possess. Another way college admissions counseling can help you is in determining if any of your applicable work experience might exempt you from having to take certain classes. The fewer classes you have to take, the sooner you can obtain your degree and the less that degree will cost you.

It’s Going to be a Big Change

Working adults who become college students must alter the lifestyles. How often do you need to take your work home? If often, then you may find it difficult to set aside time for research and homework after you arrive home from work. Although it may seem unmanageable to work a full-time job and attend college, you can manage both. With careful time management and dedicated preparation, you can do it. Think of the goal at the end to keep yourself in high spirits, and try to enjoy the shift in the atmosphere of the classroom versus the workplace.

Remember, receiving academic advising from an experienced higher education professional is critical to a first-time student’s success. While effective college admissions counseling isn’t the sexiest topic, it can make the difference between satisfying college experience and an unsatisfying one.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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How to Make Online Schooling a Smooth Process

Online Universities

Today’s typical college student has changed dramatically in the past few decades. The traditional university student used to be the fresh high school graduate with no obligations to interfere with a full course load, but thanks to the advent of online university and college programs, current college attendees are more likely to work full-time and have family obligations competing with their class time.

Online programs offer flexibility to these students, allowing them to attend classes asynchronously from their homes at whatever time is most convenient. Despite the advances in distance education, new students still need to make adjustments to prepare for the challenges unique to working adult learners. This article strives to help make the process of beginning higher education smoother and more enjoyable.

Prepare for Virtual Interaction and Self-Guided Study

Most online courses are learner-centered, which means that the learner carries more responsibility for meeting course objectives and requirements than the instructor. The instructor is still present in an online university course, but he or she will take more of a mentor or facilitator role, while the learner will rely mostly on assigned readings, research, and interaction with fellow students and the instructor via guided discussion.

Many programs include both synchronous and asynchronous communication to make this work. Discussion boards, shared websites, wikis, and email are forms of asynchronous contact where the individuals can communicate in different places at different times.

A web chat room or video conference enables students and instructors to interact synchronously, where they are all together at the same time despite being in different locations. Learners who are not used to this new environment often adjust readily during the first week of class when the assignments are focused on orienting students and encouraging them to introduce themselves and interact using the discussion methods outlined for the course.

Explore the Classroom Environment

Students in online university programs need to be familiar with the user interfaces for their online classroom environments and virtual tools provided to students by the institution. The best programs offer learners access to vast digital libraries and web resources to use for research instead of brick and mortar libraries accessible to the traditional students. The online classroom environments differ between colleges, but quality programs will provide tutorials for students before the beginning of a term.

The best way to become proficient with the user interfaces is to explore them during one’s free time and begin interacting with other students as soon as possible. Again, most courses are designed with primary activities to aid new students in adjusting to the environment.

Check Hardware, Software, and Internet Capabilities

The online university website and student handbook should provide a list of technology requirements that students are expected to meet before starting the program. This list will include the minimum hardware specifications for computers and mobile devices as well as a minimum speed for the Internet.

Students are responsible for meeting these requirements, and most instructors will expect learners to have alternatives plans in case their home Internet is not working. This could include a local cafe or library that extends access to public Internet service. Students should always obtain email and telephone contact information from their instructors to maintain contact if they do run into problems with these services.

The recent growth of online degree programs has brought unprecedented opportunities to busy working adults and parents. However, one should be prepared for the change from instructor-led to learner-centered curricula. Furthermore, new online students will want to learn how to access and use their virtual school and study tools before starting their programs.

Resources Consulted

WGU

U.S. News

KQED News

eLearning Industry

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison