5 Tips for Going Back to School Later in Life

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‘Tis the season for backpack and crayon sales. Teachers are busy navigating through a new post-pandemic year, helping students settle into school and getting back to “normal.”

It’s not just children who are eager to move forward with a new school year. Many adults are going back to college. With online courses and new technology constantly being developed, the opportunities are endless and adults are taking note.

5 tips for returning to school later in life:

1. Talk to your loved ones.

If you are married, have children, or have other people who depend on you, going back to school will be an adjustment for you and your family. It’s important to communicate from the beginning what this will mean for you and what it means for your loved ones. Explain the long-term benefits to alleviate some of the tension that may arise from changing schedules and financial burdens.

2. Make a plan and a schedule — and stick to it.

Staying organized will help you and those around you. Make sure everyone knows when you plan to study, work, sleep and eat. And let them know when you’ll have family time and free time. Including study time in an already busy schedule can add extra stress. If you plan your time, you will be ahead of the game. Juggling everything won’t always be easy; but in the long run, it will be worth it.

3. Don’t stress over tests.

It can be overwhelming if you haven’t been a student for a long time. Homework, projects and tests can feel daunting. Just remember that exams are only meant to ensure you know the material. If you retain the knowledge, you will be fine. Also, remember this time around you are taking courses you WANT to take. The less you stress about it, the better you will be at remembering the information for the tests.

4. Look for financial aid.

Financial aid isn’t just for first-time college students graduating from high school. Anyone can qualify, regardless of age. Adults can apply for the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and seek scholarships as well as other financial aid. You won’t know what money is available unless you apply: https://studentaid.gov/

5. Take care of yourself: Eat healthy, exercise and sleep well.

Major life changes can add stress to an already busy and stressful life. It’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself. Getting enough sleep and staying healthy is essential to succeeding as a student, no matter how old or young you are.

But what is sparking the trend? Even before the pandemic, adults in their 40s, 50s and beyond were returning to school. Each individual has a personal motivation, but there seem to be a few common reasons why older adults return to the classroom.

Common reasons for returning to school:

Starting a new career

For adults looking to develop new skills, a degree is often the way to pursue a second chapter. Decades into a career, some employees realize they want to do something completely different. Some may retire and find themselves bored or in need of extra income. Some jobs may be outsourced or rendered obsolete by new technology with workers suddenly finding themselves out of work.

Becoming an entrepreneur

Sometimes, after many years of working in a particular field, people discover they love the work but want to branch out and be their own boss. Running your own business can be rewarding, but it takes a lot of work. Training can help with launching a new company.

Finishing a degree

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSC), six out of 10 college students who begin a degree will not finish within six years. Some start families and find it too difficult to keep up with their studies. Some can’t afford the tuition. After the children are grown, and more money is available, some adults decide to complete their schooling.

Polishing skills in a competitive workforce

In numerous fields, it’s easy for skill sets to become outdated. Many companies choose to hire younger people rather than investing in retraining their current workforce. Often older adults are at a disadvantage, especially in technology careers. Going back to school is a good way to develop expertise to stay competitive.

Creating new challenges and learning new ideas

Even adults who like their jobs and feel secure with their current employment can have a desire to keep learning. Going back to school can be a way to challenge yourself and enhance personal development. Learning new ideas can provide new perspective and enthusiasm at work.

Meeting a lifelong goal

It could be for personal fulfillment or to inspire others by saying, “I did it,” but some adults return to college to finish what they started or to complete something they always wanted to do.

Increasing earning potential

Making more money is a priority for many people. Adults going back to school can increase their earning potential. Some jobs require a certain level of education for managerial positions or other leadership roles. Returning to school makes practical sense if it can open the door to better financial opportunities.

Going back to school later in life may not be the best choice for everyone, but it’s an attractive option as career shifts become more common and the workforce becomes more competitive. If you are one of the adults pursuing higher education, you are not alone.

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