Getting an education is something to treasure, but not everyone has the chance. Some attend college but have to leave due to personal issues. Others don’t have the opportunity when they’re young due to familial obligations. The great thing about college is that even if these circumstances apply to you, you can always try again.
Entering college as a nontraditional student is the start of a new adventure, but prevalent stigmas can cause many people to become anxious or self-conscious about their decision.
However, you should know that these stigmas aren’t true — going back to college is an admirable feat. If you need extra motivation for dismissing negative thoughts, consider how you can overcome these stigmas using the following tips.
1. “No One Will ‘Get’ Me”
Being older than most students in a class can make you feel detached. You may think you have nothing in common or you’ll be unable to relate to your classmates.
Fortunately, this isn’t true. People from all walks of life share similar characteristics. No matter how different you are from someone else, you can find at least one commonality between you and them. If you build off that one trait, you can create friendly and open relationships with others.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals is an excellent way to create a support system. Whenever you’re anxious about a class or stressed over papers, you can go to your friends for help. Uplifting each other will benefit both yourself and your new friend group.
2. “I Can’t Do It All”
Returning to school later in life means you’ll have to adjust your current lifestyle to incorporate your studies. Adapting is easier when you only have your schedule to plan around, but many adults must consider their partners and children. Some students believe they can’t rearrange these lives to fit a new routine. However, going back to school while still spending time with your family is entirely achievable through frequent, healthy communication.
Before you start school, talk to your partner about sharing the workload of chores and child-rearing so that you don’t pile responsibilities onto each other. It’s easy to forget about home duties when you have work and classes, but you can handle these with efficient time management.
Talk to your family about your schedule so that they know when you have free time, and actively plan out days to spend with them.
3. “I Can Never Afford This”
Your family may have to live solely off your partner’s salary if you quit your current job until graduation — which contributes to many people’s belief that school is too expensive for adult students. In fact, 75 percent of adults who considered going back to school said fear of debt made them hesitate. Fortunately, having a solid plan in place can ease this fear.
Save up money well in advance so that you’ll have enough to live on when you’re in school. Apply for scholarships and grants. Many niche scholarships are available, so you’re bound to find one suited for your situation. Some even cater to single parents, working moms or students above a specified age range.
4. “This Degree Won’t Get Me Anywhere, Anyway”
Traditional and nontraditional students alike believe they must obtain certain degrees to receive a return on their investment. They avoid liberal arts or humanities degrees because they fear they won’t find decent careers.
You shouldn’t let this fear stop you from joining your dream degree program, though. If you’re going to spend your time and money on college expenses, you should study a subject you love.
When you choose your passion, the financial benefits will follow. Trust your desires and see where they take you.
5. “I Need to Finish This Yesterday”
Graduate school acceptances can take months depending on the college. Once you get in, you’ll have rigorous coursework to complete before you reach your ultimate goal. Some people feel disheartened by the lengthy process and believe the time it takes to get their degree isn’t worth it.
On days where you feel like you’ll never succeed, take a moment to look at what you’ve achieved so far. Earning a degree isn’t simple — even for traditional students — and it takes patience and encouragement to see it through.
Anxiety and stress will occasionally emerge, but remember that these are only temporary fixtures in your life. Meditate, talk to loved ones or do your favorite activity. Once the fruits of labor become visible to you, you’ll see the work was worth it.
6. “I Don’t Know If I Can Handle This New Technology”
Modern classrooms implement countless technological resources, which can be vastly different from the ones you used in your high school classroom. You’ll have to acclimate yourself to using this technology if you’re not already familiar with it — especially if you have online courses.
But if you keep an open mind and focus, you can learn new tricks no matter how much of an “old dog” you may feel like.
Fortunately, help is available. Try out on-campus resources such as the IT office or the registration and advising center. Many professors will also include instructions in their syllabi for how to navigate online courses.
Attend Class With Confidence
Though you may have many fears about returning to school, you shouldn’t let them stop you from achieving your goals. Take each day as it is, and remember you deserve to be there as much as anyone else.