Starting college in the fall semester might be stress provoking for any student. However, imagine it’s been years since you’ve graduated high school—maybe even a decade or longer—and you have made up your mind to earn your degree. Maybe you desire a career change or would like a chance of moving up the ranks in your current job. The thought of college this late in the game may be a bit nerve wracking or even downright scary. But if you have some tips to help ease you back into the swing of learning, you may find the prospect of college exciting and remain motivated!
Get to know your college. Whether you will be attending college as an online student or in-person, it is important for you to familiarize yourself with your school. If you are attending school in-person, take advantage of any campus tours that are offered this summer. If you will be majoring in business, scope out where the business college is ahead of time. If you are registered and already have your class schedule, wander around campus and find the classrooms where your classes will be held. Check out the parking situation. Knowing where you’re going ahead of time may streamline your re-entry and give you a sense of security.
If you will be attending online, make sure your computer and software meets the tech specs. Understand online etiquette. When you receive emails from your soon-to-be professors, respond and introduce yourself. Taking the time to navigate online discussion boards ahead of time and figuring out the email system could alleviate some stress and make you feel like you’re in control.
Date your study times. What??? You heard me, make long standing dates with study times and don’t stand them up. If you want the best chance for success as a nontraditional student, you’ll need to vigorously defend hitting the books. You know what I’m talking about. In addition to keeping up with classwork, reading assignments, and exams you may be dealing with sick children, helping kids with their homework, working full-time, and being a loving spouse. Put study date times in your planner, use a calendar app for your smart phone, or make good use of Google calendar.
Sleep. You will need your sleep. While there may be the inevitable nights where you are up all night with sick children or you have a paper to finish, you’ll need to get as much sleep as you can the rest of the time. Turn the TV and computer off at least an hour before bedtime, try and create a restful atmosphere in your bedroom (no work), drink some calming tea (no caffeine), and realize that sleeping revitalizes your entire immune system. There are studies that suggest that “people who sleep between learning and testing score much higher than those who haven’t slept”[i]. Just another reason to get that shut-eye!
Financial aid. For most people, even adults, money is a concern when going back-to-college. Scholarships do exist for nontraditional students! Be sure to fill out your FAFSA[ii] and check the Internet for scholarships. Sites like Fastweb.com[iii], Scholarships.com[iv], and Zinch.com[v] are good places to start.
Squelch test anxiety. Okay, so it’s been a while since you’ve taken a test. Try to take some deep breaths and relax. If you have prepared well, there’s no need to stress. Get to class a bit earlier than usual, answer the questions that you know right away first, be sure to have your blue book and sharpened pencils, and before that pencil hits the paper, read all of the instructions carefully!
Going back-to-college as a nontraditional student doesn’t have to be anxiety ridden. Take these tips to heart and incorporate them into your college plans. This way, you may avoid some unnecessary stress and feel more relaxed. You are earning a college degree, remember? It is exciting!