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Support and Advice for Adult Learning

Considering going back to school, whether its full-time, part-time or just for one course, can be very overwhelming for countless adults. When youíve been out of school for many years, just the thought of returning can make you question your skills as a student. As scary as it may seem, being an adult student offers many advantages as well. So take solace in the advice offered here and find out where you can turn for more support when you need it.

Offering More
As an adult, you have a number of life experiences that you can draw from to help you better connect with what you are learning. Not only that, but your life experiences can help bring more enrichment to your experience as well as offer the other students in your class a different perspective on the lessons. This not only creates a better learning environment for yourself, but also for those around you.

Even if you didnít care for school as a child, returning as an adult is an entirely different experience. This time around, you are more likely to be there because you want to be, not because someone has told you to go. As an adult student, you are choosing to enrich your knowledge; you have goals and are more driven to achieve them. You are more likely to enjoy your time in class as well as get more out of the experience than you did as a child.

Barriers to Learning
No matter how much you may desire to learn, there will always be some type of barrier that you need to overcome. Typical barriers to education include:

  • Money: Perhaps the course you are interested in costs more than you can afford. Maybe your income is just enough to cover you monthly bills, leaving you with little extra at the end of the month. You could possibly be considering returning to school full-time but the idea of paying those increasing tuition fees that run into the tens of thousands of dollars is just too much.
    Solutions: Shop around for your course. Often, various institutions will offer very similar types of courses but their fees can greatly vary. Additionally, many colleges and universities reserve certain loans, bursaries and scholarships specifically for adult students, so see what your school can offer. If you are considering getting another degree, you may want to consider returning part-time so you can continue to work as well as spread the cost of your degree out over a longer period.
  • Lack of Time: Prior commitments to your family, in your personal life and at work can make it difficult to find a day, evening or even a few hours free for a class.
    Solutions: Take a good look at your schedule and see if it is possible to rearrange anything or maybe even cut out a prior commitment. You may also want to discuss the option of flex-time with your boss to see if it would be possible to change your work schedule. Taking online courses or enrolling in distance education is also an excellent way to fit your education into your life.
  • Confidence: If youíve been out of school for a while, you may be nervous about returning and apprehensive about your skills as a student.
    Solution: Remember that life is a form of education in and of itself. Your life experience is just as good, maybe even better, than the institutional education your peers may have.
  • Child Care: A big consideration for adults planning on continuing education is the impact it will have on their family. If taking an adult education class means having to place your children in a day care or with a baby-sitter, the price of your education can greatly increase. You may also have your own personal concerns over placing your children in day care or with a baby-sitter.
    Solution: There are a number of alternative child care arrangements parents can make. Discuss with your partner the possibility of them coming home earlier on days you have classes in order to watch the kids. Perhaps you have a relative, close friend or neighbor whom you feel comfortable leaving your children with. If it is for just a few hour a night each week, then maybe even hiring a responsible neighborhood teen to baby-sit is a less costly solution.
  • Scheduling Problems: Your busy schedule doesnít always allow you to have the time for everything you would like to do. Maybe the class you are interested in is offered at an inconvenient time. Or perhaps it requires a greater time commitment that you originally thought.
    Solution: Find out if the same type of class is offered at another location on a different day or time. You may also want to explore the possibility of online education, which will allow you to learn whenever it is convenient for you.
  • Forced to Learn: Sometimes, it can be hard to be motivated by a class because you are not there by choice. Whether your boss is making you go or it is necessary for your job, being forced to learn can create a serious barrier to education.
    Solution: Try to find something positive about the experience, such as youíre picking up a new skill that will help you advance in your career; youíre able to meet new people and maybe even network; or you just simply get a day off of work.

  • Transportation: If you donít have a reliable mode of transportation or the cost of traveling to your class (gas, car insurance, bus pass/tickets) is too much, you may not be willing to attend your class.
    Solution: Find out if there are other people in your class that live near you that you could carpool with, thereby reducing gas and other travel expenses. Alternately, taking advantage of distance learning opportunities or looking into online universities or online colleges may make it easier for you to continue your education.

What Type of Learner Are You?
Another key to succeeding when you return to school is to determine what type of environment you learn best in. While you may be interested in online learning and distance education, if youíre not the kind of person that is self-motivated, you may not do as well as you would in a classroom setting. Take a look at the three learning types below to figure out what type of learning environment youíre most suited to.

  • Motivation: You learn because youíre excited to learn. Your ability to gain more knowledge and excel makes you eager to learn as much as you can. You are also excited by the idea of getting ahead, whether it is in your personal or professional life. Because of your enthusiasm, you are suited to almost any type of learning atmosphere. Continuing education, either through classes or studying via online courses, will help satisfy your craving for knowledge.
  • Self-Starter: You like to start projects on your own initiatives because you want to solve a problem or apply your knowledge right away. You work at your own pace and like to discover (and solve) every aspect to problem. Your independent attitude is ideal for e-learning settings. Enrolling in some online courses will allow to work and advance at your own speed, progressing quickly when you want but also letting you linger to focus on the finer details when necessary.
  • Traditional: You prefer receiving direction from a teacher or instructor. You absorb what is taught and feel the most comfortable in the classic, faculty-led classroom setting. Not surprisingly, when it comes to continuing education, you do best when you actually have a class to attend. While you may be interested in distance education or online learning, the lack of direct interaction with an instructor will make it hard for you to focus. Enrolling in a class gives you the opportunity to not only learn from an instructor but also learn from your classmates.

A Final Word
If you have decided to take the plunge and return to school, either full-time or part-time, rest assured that virtually all universities and colleges these days have support centers for adult students. Even if youíre completing an online degree, online colleges and online universities often have a variety of resources and support services in place geared specifically towards adults. Once you have enrolled in your classes, locate the adult learning support services at your educational institution so you can fully benefit from the advice they have to offer.

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