Going back to school as an adult can be a highly rewarding experience for both you and your family, but it’s natural to feel some anxiety before classes start. You’re probably asking yourself “How am I going to compete with younger students?” or “How am I going to pay for this?” but school really isn’t as bad as you think. With a little planning and a lot of dedication on your part, school will be even more rewarding the second time around.
Keep your family in the loop.
If you have a spouse, children, or both, be sure to keep them involved in your education. They’re your greatest support system, so they’ll want to know what is going on in your life. Bring them along to orientation and have a family meeting to explain how school is going to go and what may change in your lives, like how you need two hours of quiet time per day to study.
Look for financial assistance.
While there may not be as many scholarships available to non-traditional students as there are for 18-year-olds, there are some that only you are eligible for. There’s the Jeannette Rankin Scholarship for low-income women over the age of 35, the AARP Women’s Scholarship for women over the age of 40, and the Osher Reentry Scholarship for students who have been out of school for five or more years.
Try online school.
With the wide variety of degrees available online, you can earn a degree in just about any subject from the comfort of your own home. This can be a plus for busy moms who don’t want to waste time commuting to and from a brick and mortar school.
One thing to watch out for is the quality of your education. Some online schools have low credibility ratings, so look around at several schools and do your research before you enroll.
Start off slow.
If you’re not ready to dive right back into being a full-time student, that’s okay. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself at the beginning and then get burned out later, so if you feel like you should only take a class or two your first semester, do it. You can always start being full-time later, or you can stay as a part-time student and spread your classes out over a few more years to make more time for your job or family.
Brush up on your computer skills.
If you’re proud of yourself for being able to type an address in on Google Maps, you may need one of your kids to give you a lesson in current technology. That way, if you ever need to restart your hard drive, convert a Word document to a PDF, or upload something to the Cloud, you won’t be behind the rest of your class.
Yes, your day-to-day life is going to be different because you’re in school, but change is the reason you’re going back to school, right? These little changes, like having to skip the office social to work on a school project or missing Big Brother each week because that’s when your study group meets, will pay off in the end. Once you have your degree in your hand, your life and earning potential will improve, and you won’t even remember all the small stuff you had to give up.
Have no fear.
The thought of going back to school can be daunting if it’s been quite a few years since you’ve picked up a textbook, but it’s only as scary as you make it out to be. Don’t be intimidated by the younger students in your class; you have a lot more figured out about life than they do (and they’ll probably actually be intimidated by you!). You have the experience and the drive to succeed, so don’t let anything stop you.