My youngest son was 18 when I decided to go back to school. Only dipping my toes in the stream of education to begin my journey, I registered for one class at a community college. When they handed me that sticker for my car that said “student,” you would have thought I had just gotten a free forever pass to Disneyland — and in some ways that is exactly what it was for me. I was in my late 40s, and I was on my way! I was an Adult Learner.
I will not kid you. It was tough at times, but I gained a lot — more than I possibly could have earlier in my life. I found out that I could keep a full-time job and be in school. I learned that there were people out there that knew a lot more than I did and were happy to share their knowledge with me. I lost quite a bit as well: sleep and many weekends were at the top of that list.
The biggest fear we all have in going back to school is whether we will even remember how to do this! You are often surrounded by younger people who have come straight from high school and seem to have this education thing down. Want to know the truth? You, my adult learning friend, scare them to death! You have life experience, and you have a goal. That is an unbeatable combination in a student of any age!
There are more options today than ever for a returning student. Community Colleges are very user-friendly and many even have adult learning centers where you can get assistance in addressing some of the challenges found on this new path. Online schools have flexible hours. If you discipline yourself to sit down and do your work with the same regularity with which you would show up in a traditional classroom, you may find this to be the answer, especially if you have kids at home and/or a job. Many schools offer a blend of both online and on campus classes as well.
Here are few thoughts to consider:
- Research your options
- Get the support of your friends and family
- Do not feel as though you have to know your major going in the door. I changed my major twice as I saw more opportunities and areas of interest that I never knew existed!
- Count the cost. Financially, will the cost of your education balance out with an increase in pay, or do you even care about that?
- Count the cost: Emotionally, it is a lot of work and you have to want it!
As for me, I came to the party and stayed right through my PhD! I restarted my education with little more than hope, desire, and that little parking sticker, and now I am Dean at a University intent on helping others find their place in the world.
You can do it!