Challenges of Returning to School in Adulthood

By: Celia Martinez

 Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - EducationAs goes the old adage, “It’s never too late to go back to school.” Adults who’ve been out of school for quite some time might laugh this off while others keep the saying quietly tucked away in the back of their minds muttering “someday, someday.”

Yes it’s true: life happens. But whether individuals never went back to school after high school, or only took a few college courses and never graduated or are ready to pursue another degree, it can be a challenge to return to school after being out for so long.

“If [adult students] have already made up their mind and they want to return to school after a long absence, it can be difficult to shift gears from a professional setting back to the academic setting,” said Jeremy Joslin, assistant dean for the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at Loyola University.

Joslin said that for that reason, Loyola University offers an introduction course specifically designed for adult students to ease them back to school. The introduction course focuses on keys to academic writing and highlights all the resources available to the students. “We try to get them in touch with all the resources they have at their disposal to increase their odds of being successful,” Joslin said.

Time and finance is also a challenging factor according to Joslin, as many adult students are living on their own, may have families (spouse/children) and possibly be working 40 hours a week. So they may find it difficult to set time aside for class and study time, which is something to take into consideration before returning to school. “Adult students face so many more challenges than the typical 20-year old student,” said Joslin. “It’s difficult to pay tuition when you are paying a mortgage or paying rent.”

Joslin said that although there are a lot of obstacles that adult students may have to overcome if they want to finish their degree, its not impossible, but they should conduct research on the college or university and see what resources they have available, if any, for adult students.

But if returning to a university seems overwhelming, perhaps a community college may be better suiting. Community colleges won’t usually offer education courses specifically designed for adult students, but do tend to offer weekend and evening classes, and the cost of tuition is also much less.

Morton College Language Arts Professor, Michele Mohr believes that community college could be a better a way for adult students to ease back into school as the college offers classes starting at 7am going into 9pm or 10pm and weekend classes which can easily work around a nine to five work schedule. But what some might find surprising is that, according to Mohr, the average age of a Morton College student is 28 years old. This could be a plus for some individuals thinking about returning to school. “When you go to a university, you may find yourself surrounded by 18-year olds,” said Mohr. “Nothing wrong with that, but when you’re 28 or 35 or 40, you might feel uncomfortable.”

Mohr said that in her experience, adult students tend to be more focused in the classroom, but finds they sometimes have difficulty coming in to class or turning in assignments on time due to a hectic work schedule. “[Adult students] are usually in and out of the classroom and don’t take complete advantage of the resources available,” said Mohr. “But if they reach out to their professors, most of us will work with them.”

The important thing to take away is that it is possible to return to school and be successful and some colleges and universities offer broad programs, services and resources for adult students. Both Mohr and Joslin agree that students should do extensive research on the college/university they plant to attend, the degree in pursuit, the cost of tuition, and if possible, the work load, in order to boost the odds of being successful.

Mohr also suggested future students to talk to current students and the professors before signing up for classes to have an idea of what to expect. “Explore a little bit,” said Mohr. “Don’t just sign up for the first class you see,” she said.


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