Going Back to School – A Goal Worth Considering
With the new school year well underway, are you having second thoughts or regrets about your decision not to return to school after a number of years away? Have you let possible doubts and fears about being a re-entry student interfere with your desire for more education? Maybe you’re in that position and finding that now, as a result, you can’t work towards a new career passion or advance career-wise the way you’d hoped. Let’s look at the worries or concerns that may have led to your action – concerns that might, with some help, be eliminated, resulting in a favorable outcome. (For the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on situations where you’ve been out of school for five years or more.)
Let’s begin with some common concerns that non-traditional returning students may have:
As someone herself who went back to college after a significant time away, I well recall the feelings of uncertainty and fear – rational or not – I experienced when I thought about and actually became a re-entry student.
For starters, I remember wondering just how well I’d adjust to spending many hours sitting in classrooms concentrating on serious academic topics. I wondered how I’d manage the amount of studying required. Would my study habits even be good enough for me to succeed? Would I remember how to take good, brief lecture/discussion notes, so I could make the best use of my limited study time? And how would I do on quizzes or exams when I was so out of practice taking them – and could I even get good grades? In my case, the courses were graduate-level, and I’d been out of undergrad school for well over 10 years. But these same questions could easily apply to people resuming undergraduate work who didn’t take their studies seriously the last time they were in college.
Then, there’s the fear that many students in this situation face – the feeling of being significantly out of practice writing term papers, applying math concepts, using the latest computer/social media-related skills, or dealing with changes in library research techniques.
Plus, another worry for some re-entries – particularly after significant time away – can be feeling somewhat out-of-place around other, more traditionally college-aged students. This may lead to a sense of aloneness and concerns about having readily accessible study partners or even close friendships with their fellow students.
Lastly, recognizing the workload required of students, another logical concern is whether you’ll be able to successfully manage that role without jeopardizing all the other roles you’re already assuming – and still maintain a healthy work/life balance.
So, with all these conceivable worries, what can a returning student do to increase the chances that going back to school will result in a positive, memorable experience? Here are some constructive actions you can take to ease your situation:
First, one way to lessen or possibly eliminate some academic concerns is to begin by enrolling in one or two non-credit courses. This can immediately lessen a common stressor – worrying about grades – while helping reintroduce you to the experience of college classes. This ease-you-in approach can also be a tremendous confidence booster, helping you see that you very likely do have the ability to do well in future for-credit courses.
Once you’re ready to actually enroll in a school’s for-credit programs, if you are someone who’s returning after five or more years’ absence to a college/university you formerly attended, consider taking advantage of the help that some schools may provide of offering priority status for re-admission. This may easily shorten and simplify the entire admission process.
As for tips on improving your ability to perform some necessary academic-related activities, check with your specific school, as many provide workshops or classes to assist with such tasks. These might include how to apply good study habits, how to best prepare for and take exams, how to write effective strong term papers, and hints on good time management and balancing your busier-than-ever lifestyle.
To help re-entry students brush up on subjects such as Math, English, Coding and effective use of Social Media, many schools have re-entry programs or student success or learning centers that offer classes or furnish tutors.
Regarding returnees feeling alone or uncomfortable around fellow students, some schools offer a peer mentor program aimed at befriending and helping students adjust to their new environment. Availability of this kind of service, however, is often determined by individual departments.
To assist returnees with such concerns as General Education requirements, course selection, and information about various educational programs offered, most colleges have an academic advising program. And, in response to relevant career-related needs, most colleges provide varying degrees of services such as individual or group meetings that focus on career assessment to help students determine a college major and a career goal. Finally, for returning students in need of such personal services as emotional support, reassurance, or help with self-confidence, a fixed number of sessions are often available from a college’s counseling or psychological services department. Do know, however, that if these kinds of services don’t meet your needs, you can always seek additional help from private individual counseling services.
In summary, if you are seriously thinking about or wishing you could return to school and complete the studies you need to realize your ideal career goal, hopefully you won’t let inaction or over-concern deter you. Because, as you can see now, a variety of resources are readily available to give you the assistance you may need to make the outcome you’re after a reality.
So, speaking as one who’s been in a similar position, don’t let what may result in a great opportunity pass you by. Go for it! It can be well worth every bit of effort.
Betty Cohen, M.S., NCC, MCC
Serving San Francisco Bay Area, CA, and Phoenix Metro Area, AZ
Phone: (650) 868-5396