Take it from the late but great Franklin Delano Roosevelt - “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Don’t let your nerves stand in the way of you pursuing your dream and finishing up your education as an adult. When it comes to completing an adult education, you’re not alone.
In fact, the number of students over the age of 25 is growing quickly. This age group is expected to make up 19 percent of all college and graduate students by 2020! If that’s not motivation enough, note that by 2018, 63 percent of all US jobs will require education beyond high school.
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How to Overcome the 4 Common Obstacles Keeping You From Completing Your Adult Education
1. The Cost—Can I Afford Such an Expense?
Education is expensive. Most students are unable to cover the full cost of an education by themselves. However, there are options available for those who can’t do it alone. Knowing all of the options available to you can be beneficial in your decision to tackle your adult education.
When it comes to the cost, there are several benefits of choosing online courses over in-person classes. No commute, no parking permits/passes, and no room and board fees can add up fast to save you some big bucks. At some schools, you may also find that tuition costs are lower for online students, and online students are still eligible for financial aid.
Help From Your Employer
Do you already have a job? That’s good news, and can be an even better start! Your employer may be able to open more doors than you’d expect. Some employers are willing to cover some of the costs of adult education, so do your research to see if you fall into that lucky category. Reach out to your human resources department to inquire about tuition reimbursement opportunities that may be available for you.
Another opportunity to look into is tax breaks. These may also be offered, such as the Lifetime Learning Credit. Chat with a tax professional or the Internal Revenue Service to see if you qualify.
Scholarships & Grants
Most universities give out scholarships and grants to qualified applicants. Talk to an academic advisor about what is available for you and try to apply to as many as you qualify for.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Lastly, don’t forget about FAFSA. Be sure to file the FAFSA to determine what you are eligible to receive. These could include types of financial aid, grants or loans. Keep in mind that filing a FAFSA doesn’t mean you’re agreeing to take out loans. Instead, it means you are requesting information about eligibility.
2. The Time & Commitment—Will I Have Enough Time for School?
It’s understandable to be concerned about the time commitment involved in finishing your adult education. Working through classes while also tackling everything else going on in your life can be a challenge. However, it might be in your best interest to make the time, as the challenge is often worth the reward. When choosing a school to complete your education at, choose one that provides flexible options for you to help fit everything into your schedule.
For example, search for a school with a support staff that understands the specific scheduling needs of busy adults like yourself. Also, keep in mind that some schools accept professional certifications you earned in the past. These can help move you forward faster towards a degree! Additionally, there are options to take classes online.
If you have a tight schedule, online classes can be an effective and efficient way to learn and earn your degree on time. For those who face the issue of the commitment that comes with being a full-time student as an adult, there are alternative options.
For example, you can attend classes part-time or take accelerated classes and programs that are structured specifically for those with less available time to work with. As you choose your course load, make sure not to choose too many classes each quarter, semester, or trimester, to avoid overloading and overwhelming yourself.
When searching for the right school for you, keep an eye out for institutions offering flexible schedules and one with staff and advisors who are familiar with the unique needs of adult students.
3. Other responsibilities—I Have a Family and/or a Full-Time Job; How am I Supposed to Live a Balanced Life and Attend Classes?
Your family and/or full-time job are both huge responsibilities in your life and likely very high on your list of priorities. That’s understandable, and finding the time to care for loved ones and/or provide regular income can be tricky.
When you’re looking for the right institution and program for you, find one that is flexible when it comes to your individual needs and work schedule. Additionally, share your concerns with an advisor, and see what advice and/or feedback they have to share. Having a set schedule gives you the best opportunity to succeed at home and in the classroom. So, it’s important to plan ahead.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a class syllabus ahead of time. The syllabus can be beneficial when it comes to planning and managing your coursework. Also, keep in mind that many institutions offer evening classes or classes on weekend or even online. These can be beneficial for you to help you work around your family and a full-time job.
While balancing your personal life with family, your full-time job for your income and the adult education you’re pursuing may sound intimidating, remember that others have done it. So can you.Stay focused on your goals and organized with a regular routine so you can succeed in aspects of both your school and personal life.
4. The Age Difference—I’m Much Older Than Traditional Students, Can I Still Succeed?
We’ve got great news for you—35 is the new 20! If you think you’re too old to go back to school, think again. No matter how old you are, your maturity will work in your favor and help you succeed as a college student. If you’re worried about all the youthful students surrounding you, try to think of how they can benefit you instead.
For example, if you’ve been out of college for some time, you might be nervous about the idea of the new technologies you may face. Your younger classmates are a great resource to help you out with such difficulties. Aside from your peers, most schools offer technical support as well. So get excited to try out new technology and succeed as a student!