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Back to School: 5 Ways to Educate Yourself As an Adult.

May 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Education, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThySistas.comIt often seems like there’s a set path in life that you’re supposed to follow (or not follow), especially when it comes to education and careers. You finish high school and then you either go to college, or you start working right away. Some might not even graduate from high school before they start working. If you don’t go to college straight after high school, you might feel like you’ve missed the boat. It’s hard to start studying again once you’ve entered the rat race, and you might just be trying to keep yourself afloat. But if you want to go back to school or improve your skills, you can consider a variety of ways to do it by adjusting your current lifestyle.

Go Back to School as an Older Student

Sure, a lot of people start college when they’re eighteen or nineteen years old. Most incoming freshmen are just out of high school, or maybe have taken a year or so off. If you’re thinking about college as someone a little older than that, even if you’re only in your mid-twenties, the idea can seem pretty frightening. For one thing, if you want to study full-time, it could mean giving up a full-time job. You can keep working part-time as many students do, but maintaining both your studies and a full working week would be a huge struggle. The cost of going to college can also add to your financial worries. Maybe you’re married or have kids, and adding debt to your situation doesn’t sound helpful.

However, attending college as a ‘mature’ student is a great choice for a lot of people. There are some benefits of waiting until a little later before you go to college. For one thing, you already have life experience as an adult. You’ve spent time going to work, paying your bills, and perhaps managing a household. You know how to use your time wisely, and you’ve had time to think about what you want to do with your career. You might already have a job you can hold onto part-time while you study, or the experience to find another job that fits around your studies. You might already have done the drinking and partying stuff too so you can concentrate on your studies more.

As an older student, you’re likely to be a bit more prepared than teenagers to solve any problems. This is useful because colleges aren’t always set up to help older students in the best ways. It’s helpful if you know what you want and can go after it. The number of people going to college when they’re older has increased, but you can still face some challenges. One challenge is applying to colleges as an older student. Some colleges will provide separate guidance for adult learners to help you.

Study Online

If going to college full-time doesn’t seem like the right path for you, you have other options you can consider. One choice you have is studying online, which can provide you with a flexible solution to improving your skills and knowledge. You can complete your bachelor’s degree using online and distance learning, and complete higher qualifications online too. There are several excellent benefits to studying online. Firstly, you can still get your degree or diploma from a respected institution. In fact, studying online can give you access to courses from all over the world. You have the freedom to look for one that suits you.

Studying online can mean some limitations. There are some subjects that are difficult to study completely online because you need hands-on experience to learn all you need to know. But many courses are ideal for online studies, and it doesn’t have to take longer than attending college would. If you’re interested in doing a Human Services degree, you can complete it online in around 18 months. It could lead to a new career or help you build on your current one working in community services. Online courses are usually very flexible, so you can study in your own time and fit it around your other commitments. The online material makes your course very portable and mobile too so you can work at home, at the library or in a coffee shop.

Online study can mean that you don’t have the social experience of college, though. You might get to speak to fellow students online, but it’s not exactly the same as actually attending college physically. However, for many people who choose to study online, this isn’t a problem. They already have friends and perhaps a family to spend time with. If you need help with your studies, you can usually talk to a tutor or other educator about any issues. Sometimes you can take part in live learning sessions too, so there’s the opportunity to learn with others.

Take Night Classes

If you work during the day and don’t want to give up your job or reduce your hours, you could consider taking classes in the evening. Some people might not like the idea of studying online, as it means they can feel disconnected from other students and educators. But if you take classes, you can be in a classroom environment, meet other students, and have someone who is physically there to help you out. There are both positives and negatives to taking evening classes, but they’re certainly one thing to consider if you want to improve your qualifications. It’s one method people choose if they want to go back to school to get their GED.

Evening classes can help you to gain a recognized qualification, or they could just help you learn a new hobby. In fact, no matter which subject you study or what your aim is, evening classes could be beneficial for you. According to a study at Oxford University, attending a weekly evening session could help to boost your wellbeing. It gives you a chance to socialize and to engage your mind. It’s easy to fit into your schedule if you work during the day too. And many classes will last just an hour or two, so they won’t take up too much of your time.

However, some people might find that taking evening classes is too exhausting or that it takes away too much of their free time. They’re not as flexible as studying online because you have to attend at a set time. If you have to work a full day, only to attend a class at night, it can be a bit overwhelming for some. It becomes harder if you have other commitments, like children. While night classes work for some, they’re not for everyone.

Study Part-time

Part-time study at a college is an option open for some people who want to return to school. Several colleges offer the ability to enrol as a part-time student for a number of reasons if you don’t want to take on a full-time degree. For example, at UC San Diego, you can be approved as a part-time student if you work for 30 hours or more each week. At Oswego SUNY, you can take just one course or enroll in a degree program to complete it part-time. Many colleges focus on adult students who might be returning to school in their mid-twenties or older. If you want to study part-time, you might find that you have access to a limited number of courses. At some colleges, you need to meet specific circumstances to be allowed to study part-time. Although it’s an option, it’s not one that’s available to all.

Seek Out Training Through Your Work

If you already have a job and the beginnings of a career, you might be reluctant to give it up. If you want to keep working, you can think about seeking further training and education through your employer. Some people are able to get their employer to fund a degree program for them, but this usually requires you to be able to show promise and commit to working for them for a long time. Another option is simply to try and seek your employer’s cooperation while you’re studying, so you can fit your studies and work together. They could help you out by offering you more flexible working hours while you study or giving you time to study at work.

However, you don’t have to complete a degree while you’re working. There are other study options that could help you move further in your career. You can seek out training in your industry to gain qualifications that will allow you to take on more responsibilities. These can be excellent opportunities for both you and your employer as it grows your skills and makes you more valuable. Your employer might offer regular training as standard, but if they don’t, you could raise the matter with them. There could be some industry-specific qualifications that would be useful for both you and your colleagues.

If you want to return to school and gain further education, you have a number of ways you can do it. Find the method that works best for you and your current lifestyle.

Staff Writer; Paula Short

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