women taking notes
students going back to college

Thinking of Going Back to College?

Many adults go back to college years after receiving their high school diploma or undergraduate degree. Often, they decide to return due to needing higher education for a promotion. However, some individuals realize that their field isn’t right for them years down the line. Regardless of their reasons, some are surprised by the challenges they face after enrolling.

Notably, many adults over 30 have been out of school for a decade. Most bachelor’s degrees are earned around the age of 22 to 24. Thus, it can be difficult to readjust to school life. Reorienting yourself with testing, studying, and essay writing can take time. Additionally, things have changed a lot over the years. Some prospective students haven’t been in school since before laptops and computers were common use. Not only do they have to get used to having homework again, but they have to learn new software and technology.

However, older students can use their experience to understand core concepts better and add to discussions. Strikingly, you can see the same effect in students who take gap years. It’s easier to make sense of new ideas when you can apply your experiences to them. These students also tend to be more mature. Traditional students often take advantage of their newfound freedom and spend much time on their social lives. While having fun and making connections is important, these activities undoubtedly affect grades.

Additionally, there are many benefits to going back to college. You can switch careers more easily, get that promotion, and pursue your passions. Basically, it’s worth the challenge.

man reading a textbook

What to Consider When Going Back to College

The added responsibility and time requirement can scare many prospective students away from going back to college. Indeed, there’s a lot to prepare for when you enroll. But most colleges ensure that non-traditional students have the resources they need to succeed. They offer writing centers, tutors, online or 24/7 libraries, and more.

But many students don’t consider what else they’ll run into beyond the academics. What worked years ago may be different now. For example, citation guidelines change semi-regularly. Someone who hasn’t written an academic paper in 20 years may submit an outdated ‘works cited’ page. This error can result in a lower score or even unintentional plagiarism. Additionally, students may have expectations about the social atmosphere that they may not expect.

Notably, college campuses are extremely diverse. You’ll find people from all different kinds of backgrounds, who all bring their own unique experiences. If you didn’t attend college after high school, you might have a bit of culture shock.

However, part of the benefit of going to school is the diversity. You learn from people across the country or even the world. Consider how their ideas, methods, and thoughts can benefit your education and understanding of your field. Meeting and getting to know people from various backgrounds can also improve your knowledge of the world and your ability to engage with it.

Overall, there’s a lot to prepare for when you go back to college. Keep reading to learn more.

Woman at her school laptop

It Can Take a While to Get Back in the Swing of Things

As we mentioned, getting back into test-taking, essay-writing, and studying mode can take a bit. New rules for citations, plagiarism, and proctoring may be brand new territory for some. However, you can find the information online with ease.

Consider how plagiarism was caught before new software was introduced. Professors would either catch students copying each other, stealing from well-known textbooks, or simply making mistakes. Today, instructors use technology that compares your paper to thousands of essays, texts, and websites without lifting a finger. Thankfully, students can use software that will build citations for them. For most, you simply input your source material, and the website or tool does the rest. But it does mean no more shortcuts.

As for essay writing itself, writing a ten-page paper looks a lot different than writing a report or email. Most individuals aren’t prepared to put together thousands of words in a well-organized, thought-provoking, and original manner in one night. It takes time to build those skills. Though if you struggle, most colleges have writing tutors or an essay center covered by tuition. You don’t have to figure everything out on your own.

In the end, don’t beat yourself up if it takes a minute to get back in the swing of things. You’ll find that recent high school graduates are right there with you. It’s an adjustment period for anyone to get used to college life.

Everyone Will Be Figuring Out What Works for Them

There’s no right way to write an essay, study, or understand new material. Some students are avid notetakers, while others can skip class all semester and still pass the final. In many ways, everyone at college is figuring out what works for them.

Indeed, regardless of your age, university is a time for exploration and self-discovery. You traverse interesting topics, enroll in fun classes, and meet diverse people. You’ll get to know yourself just as much as you will the course concepts. When returning to college after 10, 20, or 30 years, you’re starting the next step of your life just like the 18 and 19-year-olds. Basically, you’ll have much more in common than expected.

You and your peers build off each other to be more successful in college, figure out your strengths, and further define your goals. Overall, knowing that you’re not alone can help a lot. Feeling alone when going back to college can negatively affect your studies. Thus, don’t be afraid to offer or take advice.

stack of textbooks, back to college

Your Experiences Will Benefit You

As we mentioned, your real-world experiences benefit you in your studies. You can apply your knowledge to new concepts, ideas, and classes. Consider how different it is to take a business course after working in management for 12 years versus right after graduating high school. Indeed, you may even know of methods or technologies that your professor isn’t experienced with. Your insight provides ample material for discussions, presentations, and unique essay topics.

Additionally, your knowledge will help you with critical thinking and problem-solving. Indeed, those skills are difficult to teach in a classroom but vital for success. Everything you’ve experienced helped you grow into the person you are today and can benefit you on your academic journey.

Consider the experience of giving a speech. Putting together the script and reciting it out loud benefit your writing and presenting skills, which are commonly required in any class. Notably, around 64% of students have a fear of public speaking.

As a bonus, you may even be able to skip certain courses thanks to your experience. Make sure you ask if your school offers a prior learning assessment. These programs allow you to prove your skills and knowledge in a way that counts towards your degree. Notably, you may take care of a college credit by submitting documents, taking a test, or writing an essay.

You’ll Learn a Lot From Your Peers

Sometimes, people overlook what young adults have to say. It’s important to remember that you’re all in the same boat when you go back to college. While the younger generations won’t have the same experiences as you, they’ll have fresh, unique, and amazing ideas. You’ll meet people who are smarter than you, who excel in fields that you don’t, and who come from different backgrounds. Make sure you open your mind and allow yourself to learn from them.

Particularly, creativity and innovation flourishes in college. They’ll have fresh ideas that people who work in the field may never have considered. Don’t be afraid to join study groups or clubs. They may be able to help you develop an idea you’ve had or come up with new ones. Additionally, you’ll learn a lot about how the next generation views your field.

Certainly, you can take a page from their study habits and academic skills, especially if you’ve been out of school for a while. Many younger students have been in school for as long as they can remember. They’ll have insight into what worked for them in high school or undergrad.

It’s Important to Engage in Self-Advocacy and Ask for Help

Finally, we previously mentioned that many colleges offer students resources and help. But many of them go unused, as students are afraid to reach out. Writing centers stay empty, and tutors end up with open schedules. You shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help and schedule an appointment. These experts are there specifically for students who need a hand getting settled in college life. They know that individuals who go back to college have unique needs.

The same goes for reaching out to your professor. Indeed, whether you pursue a certificate, undergraduate degree, or master’s degree, you’ll probably need to ask for help at some point. Trying to push through it can result in low grades, failed classes, and missed assignments. As a non-traditional student, you’ll likely have more responsibilities than traditional ones.

Your children could get sick, you may have to work overtime, or you may run into a big life event. In these cases, you can and should ask for help. Notably, your professor can provide extensions on assignments or even retakes on exams.

Ultimately, going back to college means a lot of extra responsibility. Part of that includes knowing when to ask for help. As soon as you realize you don’t understand a concept, make that appointment or send an email. You may even be able to talk to your instructor after class. Remember, your college wants to see you succeed.

You may have knowledge and skills from your career, but you won’t know everything there is to know. That’s why you’re going back to college, after all. Take advantage of the assistance; it may just be the thing that helps you reach your goals.

Final Thoughts

Lakewood University is an accredited online school that offers a variety of degree and certificate programs. We have rolling enrollments and asynchronous courses. In other words, you don’t have to worry about missing a lecture or running late to class. If you plan on enrolling in college while working, Lakewood University offers the flexibility you need to earn your degree.

Don’t hesitate – reach out to our admissions department today to learn more!