If you are over the age of thirty and thinking about returning
to college, you should know that you are not alone. Far from
Not that long ago, college students who were older than twenty-five
were frequently described by educators and college admissions
officers as "non-traditional," but now more and
more adult students are returning to college than ever before.
In fact, according to the F.A.Q. (Frequently Asked Questions)
page of Back2College.com, in 1970, "28 percent
of all college students were 25 years of age or older."
In 1998 the number of adult learners had increased to 41
The number of students age 35 and older in degree-granting
institutions has soared from about 823,000 in 1970 to an estimated
2.9 million in 2001 - doubling from 9.6% of total students
to 19.2%, according to the National Center for Education
Seven Valuable Tips for Returning to College
Professor Al Siebert, who has taught adult education and
management psychology courses for over thirty years at Portland
State University in Oregon, is the Director of The Resiliency
Center and the co-author, along with Mary Karr, of The
Adult Student's Guide to Survival & Success, 5th Edition.
He frequently speaks to groups of newly enrolled adult learners,
and in a recent e-mail interview, he outlined seven useful
tips that he always shares with them:
"1. If you have fears and concerns write them down.
Then look to see how realistic they are and develop a plan
for overcoming each one. For example, if you feel like you
won't be able to study and compete with younger, traditional
students, that is an unrealistic fear. After the first several
class meetings, adult students calm their initial fears
and typically do better in
their courses than most of the younger students.
2. If you feel concerned about being able to pass tests,
go to the college bookstore and look in the book section
on "Study Skills." These books have practical
guidelines on how to study and pass tests with high grades.
Study skills books also show how to write excellent term
3. Are you uncertain about a new career direction to take?
The colleges in your area all have free career counseling
4. If you worry about how much your spouse and family will
support your new life as a college student, some books and
websites have guidelines on how to gain their cooperation,
support, and encouragement.
5. If you are working while taking college courses, ask
your employer to alter your work schedule during exam weeks.
Most of them will.
6. If a course you need is offered at inconvenient time,
take it at a nearby college. Afterward transfer the course
credit back to your primary college program. All colleges
offer and accept transfer course credits.
7. Do you need financial aid? There are many sources of
scholarships, grants, and low cost loans for adult students.
It's also a good idea to review internet resources that are
specifically designed to serve the needs of adult learners,
(such as Professor Siebert's site, www.AdultStudent.com
Professors Deeply Value Classroom Contributions of Adult
One of the best aspects of returning to college a little
later in life is that many professors greatly enjoy having
adult learners in their classrooms. For instance, in a recent
interview, Robert W. Greene, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of
French at the State University of New York at Albany, stated
that adult learners genuinely "want to be where they
are, sitting in a classroom taking courses toward a degree."
In his 30-plus years of teaching experience, he observed
that the adult learners in his classroom tended to "develop
good study habits quickly, come to class prepared and seek
to learn as much as they can in a course. In a word, they
are motivated, thus are a pleasure to teach."
Greene also feels that adult students often "show
their younger classmates that being committed to learning
is a deeply satisfying way to live."
Throughout his teaching career, Professor Greene found that
a great deal of learning took place in his classes that were
composed of both younger students and adult learners. Just
as his younger students benefited enormously from the wisdom
of their adult peers, Greene also observed that the younger
students were sometimes able to remind their adult classmates
"just how exciting first intellectual stirrings are.
Witnessing this kind of mutual intellectual enrichment in
a classroom is particularly gratifying for the professor."
Greene acknowledges that adult students often have specific
For instance, sometimes they "feel nervous about returning
to the classroom after having been away from formal study
for some years." Whenever he sensed this particular anxiety
in his adult students, Professor Greene would point out to
them that "their maturity was more of an advantage than
a disadvantage to them, and that their very presence in the
classroom demonstrated to one and all that their passion to
learn and to succeed in their studies was real."
SixWise.com contributing editor Rachel G. Baldino,
MSW, LCSW, is the author of the e-book, Loving
Simply: Eliminating Drama from Your Intimate Relationships,
published in 2006 by Fictionwise.com, and the print
book, Welcome to Methadonia: A Social Worker's Candid
Account of Life in a Methadone Clinic, published in
2000 by White Hat Communications.
Her articles have appeared in Social Work Today, The
New Social Worker, New Living Magazine, Conflict911.com
and other publications. After earning her MSW from the
Boston College Graduate School of Social Work in1997,
she provided counseling services, first at a methadone
clinic, and later at an outpatient mental health treatment
Ms. Baldino has been quoted about managing anger in
relationships in Kathy Svitil's 2006 book, Calming The
Anger Storm, which is part of the Psychology Today Here
To Help series. She has also been quoted in such magazines,
newspapers and online publications as For Me Magazine,
Conceive Magazine, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, The
Albany Times Union, The Tallahassee Democrat, Bay State
Parent Magazine, TheBridalBook.com, Babyzone.com, Momstoday.com,
The Newhouse News Service, and Indianapolis Woman. She
lives with her husband and children in Massachusetts.
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