Tips for Adult Students

5 Tips for Going Back to School as an Adult

Worried about Money? Study Time? Tests?


Whether it’s finding the money or worrying about tests, going back to school can be stressful for adult students. These five tips can make life a bit easier.

1. Get Financial Help

Smiling woman in cap and gown holding diploma

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Unless you’ve won the lottery, money is an issue for almost everyone going back to school. Remember that scholarships aren’t just for young students. Many are available for older students, working moms, non-traditional students of all kinds. Search online for scholarships, includingFAFSA (Federal Student Aid), ask your school what kind of financial aid they offer, and while you’re there, ask about work on campus if you’ve got a few extra hours available.

2. Make a Date with Yourself for Study Time

Adult students studying

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You have a full life already. For most college kids, going to school is their job. You may very well have a full-time job plus a relationship, children, and a home to care for. You’re going to have to manage your study timeif you’re adding school to your already busy schedule.

Choose the hours that make the most sense for you (early morning? noon? after dinner?), and mark them in your date book or planner. You now have a date with yourself. When something comes up during those hours, stay strong, politely decline, and keep your date to study.

3. Manage Test Anxiety

Meditate by Dougal Waters - Getty Images

Dougal Waters – Getty Images

No matter how hard you’ve studied, tests can be stressful. There are lots of ways to manage your anxiety, assuming you’re prepared, of course, which is the first way to reduce test stress. Resist the urge to cram right up to test time. Your brain will function more clearly if you:

  • Arrive early and relaxed
  • Trust yourself
  • Take your time
  • Read the instructions carefully
  • Answer the questions you know easily first, and then
  • Go back and work on the harder ones

Remember to breathe! Breathing deeply will keep you calm and relaxed.

Sleeping by Jupiterimages - Getty Images

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4. Get Your Forty Winks

One of the most important things you can do when learning anything new is to sleep! Not only do you need the energy and revitalization that sleep provides before a test, your brain needs sleep to catalog learnings. Studies have shown that people who sleep between learning and testing score much higher than those who haven’t slept. Get your forty winks before testing and you’ll do much better.

5. Find a Support System

Networking by Stewart Cohen - Getty Images

Stewart Cohen – Getty Images

So many non-traditional students are going back to school that many schools have websites or organizations set up to support you.

  • Get online and search for “non-traditional students”
  • Stop at your school’s front office and ask if they have help in place for non-traditional students
  • Introduce yourself to other students like yourself and support each other.

Don’t be shy. Get involved. Almost every non-traditional student has some of the same concerns you do.