Going back to school can cause anxiety for anyone, but when you’re an adult, the stressors and challenges you’ll face are more unique. Whether it’s figuring out how to afford tuition fees, struggling to balance time between work and classes, or just adjusting to the unfamiliar environment of adult education, there’s a lot to prepare for when you make the decision to return to school. Instead of letting those fears build up and overwhelm you, it’s important to remember that everyone in any academic environment is united by a shared commitment to learning and that there’s plenty of preparation you can do to make sure you start your journey through adult education on the right foot. Let’s go over five simple tips for those adult learners, who are heading back to school.
1. Make a schedule.
Being able to manage your time effectively is one of life’s most important skills, and it’s particularly crucial for surviving school as an adult. Make a plan for when you’ll have time to do homework and study and stick to it. Don’t forget to include things like sleep, family time, and even a few breaks here and there. If you work yourself too hard, it becomes easy to burn out and your performance will start to suffer. Be realistic about what you can handle, and remember that juggling all of these things at once is only temporary.
2. Balance your work, life, and family.
Often, adult education involves finding a balance between work, family, and studying you’re required to do for your classes. For many younger students, going to college is treated as though it is their primary employment. This is rarely the case for adult learners who are returning to the academic world. Adding school to your schedule when you already have a relationship, children, a job, and other responsibilities to take care of, might seem impossible. But, with careful planning, you can make it work.
3. Look into financial aid.
Financial aid is available to everyone in the United States, and actually, you may qualify for more help than you realize. Apply with a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid,) and start considering your financial aid options as soon as you’ve been accepted on the adult education program you intend to enroll in. Some schools even have special scholarships set aside for older people, working mothers, and other types of nontraditional students. You can also look into working on campus if you have the time available and want to help offset the cost of your education.
4. Dress for success.
It can seem like a cliché to say if you look good, then you feel good, but it’s true. A professional, stylish wardrobe can go a long way towards making you feel like you’re ready to take on the world. Whether it’s investing in a fresh pair of straight pants to adorn your thigh in replacement of the old, familiar sweatpants, or an even a smart new jacket for interviews, there’s no reason not to freshen up your wardrobe before you start this new chapter in your life. Upgrading your sense of style doesn’t just come in handy for impressing your classmates and making a good impression, a wardrobe that’s professional, modern, and flattering will help you out at work too.
5. Manage your anxiety.
Nothing can completely calm your nerves all of the time, but making an effort to improve your mental health and reduce your anxiety will make a huge difference. Get plenty of sleep, arrive early and prepared, and take your time when you’re responding to questions or taking a test. For students with persistent anxiety, it might make sense to look into simple calming techniques like breathing exercises, or search for professional guidance from a doctor, if the problem persists or becomes debilitating.
No matter what type of program you’ll be participating in, there will always be those back to school nerves to contend with. For an adult returning to an academic environment, especially after years away from school, it can be even more stressful. But while being an adult learner presents unique challenges, there’s a lot you can do to help mitigate the pressure you feel and get yourself ready for school life. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t let your anxiety stop you from taking advantage of all of the incredible opportunities that a good education can provide.