If you are over the age of 25 and have decided to continue your education, you are considered a non-traditional student. And you’re not alone. More and more adults are choosing to go back to school to continue their education. Many of the keys to success are the same for regular college students and non-traditional students. However, there are a few tips that may help the latter feel more comfortable and increase their chances of succeeding in an academic program.
Choose the Right Program as a Non-Traditional Student
Not all programs are suited to non-traditional students. Take time to find a school and program that suits your needs. If you can’t attend school full-time, look for a part-time program. If you would feel more comfortable with students your own age, consider a community college–there may be more non-traditional students. If you don’t know very much about a particular school, call the admissions office to ask questions or schedule a campus visit.
Consider Online Education
Non-traditional students sometimes make up the bulk of a class in an online program. The reason for this is that online schools understand the value of flexibility. Most programs have been designed with the non-traditional student in mind. Class schedules are not set in stone so that working parents can devote time to school when they have it. If you do consider online education, take time to find the right school. Look for programs that are accredited and charge reasonable tuition.
Don’t Rush Yourself
Going back to school can be very exciting–so exciting, that it may be easy to get in over your head if your exuberance causes you to take on too much too fast. Start slow. Take a class or two so that you can learn your limitations and get a feel for how long it takes you to read textbooks, write papers, and study for a test. Within a month or two, you will have a better understanding of what sort of a course load you can handle.
Balance can be the trickiest thing for the non-traditional student. It can be difficult to find time to do schoolwork, when you’re trying to balance everyday obligations like work, errands, and a family. At some point, things are going to feel overwhelming. To balance it all, you will need to create a schedule and find ways to manage your time. Be flexible, things will not always go according to schedule; you may have to make a few adjustments along the way to make it all work.
Get Financial Aid
Every student is eligible for financial aid regardless of age. You should never pay for school out-of-pocket until all of your aid opportunities have been exhausted. To get the most financial aid possible, fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as close to the beginning of the year as possible. Aid is distributed by need, but also on a first-come-first served basis. You should also apply for any scholarships you are eligible for. You can find opportunities on scholarship search engines and by contacting the financial aid office at the school you plan to apply to.
No matter how old you are or how long it had been since you have been in school, it is important to enjoy the experience once you go back. Students who enjoy their education learn better, faster, and more effectively. You may not love every subject you study, but you need to at least try to revel in the gift of education and what it can do for your future.
Guest post from Max Quinn.
Photo credit: Studying for a Test 2 by hvaldez1
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