Back to School Tips for Adult Learners

Although I didn’t drop out of school or college to later go back, it did take me over ten years to complete my degree. It was years of back-and-forth, skipping semesters and taking leave of absences to make sure I was still registered as a “student.” On top of this, I completed a few certifications here and there to keep my learning palate—fresh. 

Despite the many years, it wasn’t easy to go back each semester. Between organizing childcare, reassessing how much more I had to go (and spend), and whether it was still worth it… It wasn’t easy.

When a friend called earlier this week for advice on how to launch her school path, I didn’t realize how much I had to say until I started yapping—about the inportance of a school culture, being assertive, discussing your financial aid options, and so on—all things I learned through my own experience. Thank you, young parenting (sort of)!

Pay attention to the other students. A school’s culture and students are what will make or break your academic career. This is the first network of peers you’re going to encounter. Measure your future and success in the field by that group. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you were the kid who never asked questions in school, now is not the time to be shy. Visit the school. Don’t call or email to ask for information—just visit the school. 

Your financial aid office is your friend. They might shut you down if you’re already enrolled and/or in a bind. You’re best bet is to schedule time to discuss your financial obligations before enrolling. Just be careful. Research different loans, ask others in your program how they finance their education, talk to your professors also. 

When it comes to what you want to study, I say—go for it. Go for anything your heart is telling you to pursue, because at this point you have nothing to lose and so much more to gain. 

When I first started my degree, I was young + fresh out of high school, so the dreams were stellar-big. As I got older, after having my daughter (it took me over 10 years to graduate), I saw the evolution of my industry (media and communication) and the evolution of me. 

That evolution is what you need to be mindful about; just because you wanted to be a write many years ago when you first applied for school doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the career for you now. Or more importantly, the you you envision in the future. 



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