The Challenges Facing Adults Who Go Back To School



The first day of school is a big deal when you’re a kid. There’s a new teacher to meet, new friends to make and new subjects to learn. The whole thing can be very frightening, but it’s one that is almost invariably a positive experience in the development of a child. When you’re an adult considering a return to school, things can seem just as daunting as they did when you were young—if not more so.

The faltering economy and weak job market have led many adults to give serious consideration to re-enrolling in school. Some are simply aiming to upgrade their skills in an effort to become more attractive in the industry they are currently employed (or were recently employed). Others are looking for a more significant change and are interested in learning a new set of skills that will open up new employment opportunities.

Going back to school as an adult isn’t easy, however. There are a number of hurdles one must overcome. First and foremost are the financial ramifications. It can be hard to find the money to pay for tuition if you aren’t already employed on a full-time basis. Remember that there are a number of assistance programs for mature students. Take the time to discover whether you qualify for any scholarships or grants. If necessary, consider taking out a small loan. Upgrading your skills is a worthwhile investment.

Time (a lack of it, specifically) is another challenge faced by adults who go back to school. Many feel that they simply do not have the time to commit to their education and never proceed past that point. While it’s true that many adult learners have work and family responsibilities that are difficult to juggle alongside one’s coursework, schools are aware of this and many offer flexible programs designed to fit the lives of busy adults. Look for programs that allow you to do your work in the evenings, weekends or from the comfort of your own home (via online classes).

Finally, one must overcome fear and anxiety in order to return to the classroom as an adult. After being away for so many years, the prospect of sitting in a lecture hall with college-aged students can be terrifying. Do your best not to let the fear win. You’ll be surprised how uncommon the phenomenon of the mature student truly is these days.