“Have a plan. Be proactive.”
–Fayetta Steele, Assistant Dean, Center for Student Engagement, Bellevue University
1. It’s Never Too Late
If you think you’ve missed your opportunity for higher education, reconsider that thought. A dynamic characteristic of the U.S. shifting economy continues to be the number of individuals returning to college after having taken time to work, have families, or pursue creative/civil/political endeavors.
2. You’re In Good Company
Because the number of individuals returning to school is increasing, you’ll meet many people like you in the classroom. Whether online or in-person, you’ll be able to connect with students with similar life experiences whose goal is to finish what they started and make good on the “I’ll go back later” promise they made to themselves.
3. Hindsight Really is 20/20 (or at least it can be)
With experience comes knowledge. Returning to college after working and other world/life experiences means that you come, not as an empty vessel, but as one with insights, ideas, and information. That knowledge can be an important resource when writing essays, answering questions in class, and adding posts to an online discussion board.
4. Bring Your “A” Game
The routine of absorbing information, taking notes, reading and comprehending textbooks, studying, and turning in homework can be challenging. It’s going to take focus, determination, discipline and persistence–especially during your first six weeks back–while your mind (and body) gets used to being in student-mode again.
5. Time Will Tell
Figuratively and literally. According to Bellevue University Academic Advisor, Heath Helm, managing your time will be the single most important determiner of your success. Returning to college is not simply something you’ll be “adding to” your life. It requires a shift in priories.
6. Maximize Resources
Universities and colleges have a wealth of no-cost, low-cost resources and services created specifically to aid student success. Advisors, study centers, tutoring centers, writing centers, and the like all exist to provide you with the assistance you need to maintain or improve grades, take better tests, increase study skills, and excel in ways that can reach far beyond the academia. Take advantage of these resources.
7. Resources Redux
Make sure to ask for what you need outside of the classroom, as well. Your success will also depend on the extent to which your family, friends, religious/civic organizations, etc. understand the commitment you’ve made to your education and the priority it has become in your life.
8. Make the Most of Now
Why now is the best time to go back to school:
- A 2012 report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that jobs requiring post-secondary education will grow at approximately 19%.
- Online options (learning anytime, anywhere) make obtaining a degree convenient.
- The diversity of students in higher education create a rich learning experience.
- Publishers are now making textbooks available in ebook format.
- Educational apps and social media outlets provide new ways to stay engaged to coursework, career information, and fellow students.
- Many colleges and universities offer prior learning assessment where students may earn college credit for the experience they bring with them to campus.
“College is all about momentum. Once you’ve taken that first step and gotten moving in the direction of completing your degree, the single most important thing to keep in mind is….don’t stop.”
–Heath Helm, Academic Advisor, Bellevue University
About the Author: Kim L. Whiteside is a recognized expert known for helping adults develop their professional lives while improving their performance at work. A reliable source for the media, her articles, opinion pieces, and other writings have appeared in a number of national publications. She puts her skills as a certified executive coach (specializing in career coaching) into practice daily in her current role as Program Specialist for the Center for Student Engagement at Bellevue University.