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Going Back to School as an Adult - Our Top 10 Tips Guide

By Edited May 20, 2015 0 2

Taking that leap back to full- or part-time education as an adult can be both an exhilarating and terrifying journey. Many important decisions need to be considered before taking that leap, such as…

  • How am I going to pay for my studies?
  • Do I have enough money to support my dependents and myself whilst I am studying?
  • Will this studying increase my ability to earn once completed, or will I be saddled with the debt that I will struggle to pay off?
  • or even starting at the most basic question of questions “what should I study?”

By taking your time to answer all your questions thoroughly, you can hopefully reach a decision which is not based on emotion, but a well thought out plan that will help lead you into a new and more positive future. Congratulations!

Back to school

By utilizing our Top-10 tips to survive this new adventure, hopefully you can avoid any potential pit-falls by putting the right strategies in place ahead of time.

 1. Create support systems

One of the most important aspects of successful study is having a support system in place from the very beginning. Whether it be your spouse, your parents, your children, or even your work colleagues, they need to be made to feel a part of your decision to return to study. By taking the time to explain your reasons why, and possibly even how it would benefit them in the long-term, having them on your side will most definitely be to your benefit.

 2. Check your finances

Returning to study can be a tremendously expensive exercise, regardless of whether you plan to study full- or part-time. Not only is it the cost of the course, you need to factor in additional expenses such as stationery, text books, examination fees, additional transport costs (if required), as well as whether your normal income stream will be affected by your studying. Make sure you do your sums ahead of time; so no unexpected surprises can arise that will derail your plans.

 3. Organize, organize and organize

Organize as much as possible ahead of time, and make sure you keep any organizational systems up to date. Technology can be your friend, utilize it fully. Create and share a Google Calendar with your support system, so that they are aware of upcoming exams and assignments. If your college has an online portal for submitting assignments online as opposed to in person – use it. Proper organization can really be the key to success or failure, and in a world bursting with new and free organizational apps and programs; there are no excuses!

 4. Track your achievements

Before you start studying, create a list of your short- and long-term goals that you hope to achieve. Add and revise the list regularly as you progress. When you achieve one of your goals, reward yourself! It might even be as simple as creating a ‘Grown-up’s Star Chart’ – for every 10 stars you treat yourself to something small! By creating a visual representation of your progress, you will be a lot more aware of just how far you have travelled down the path to educational success.

 5. Accept that struggling is inevitable

It is almost a guarantee that there will be periods when you are struggling and feel simply unable to manage. After all, if it weren’t hard, it wouldn’t be worthwhile. The key to success is not to wait until the problem escalates, rather to get assistance as soon as you are aware there is a problem. Pride needs to take a back seat to success, so chat to your instructors, or ask fellow students for help. Do what ever is necessary to overcome the problem before it becomes unmanageable.

Maths homework
 6. Time management

Make a date to study – whether you need to do it once a day, or once a week, set aside time in your diary as you would any meeting. As you would respect the time others set aside to meet with you, you owe it to yourself to show the same respect to you and your studies. Add it to your Google Calendar, so others know this time is sacred.

 7. Create the right study environment

As with many of us professional procrastinators, we are only looking for the next excuse to justify our inability to study and get work done. Ideally you need to create a distraction-free study environment, where you can study in peace. Even if it’s not possible to set aside an entire room, ensure that you have an area that is as far away as possible from the central hub of the house. Keep TVs off, cell phones and tablets in another room, and the door closed if possible.

 8. Use time wisely

If you are lucky enough to be ahead of schedule and with no imminent deadlines by all means reward yourself with some time off. However, your best plan would be for you to use this opportunity to get ahead of schedule, to give yourself a head start on upcoming assignments and studying. 


 9. Be honest

Be honest with friends, family and colleagues with what you can and can’t do. Don’t try and be the superhero that juggles everything, as something is bound to get dropped. Rather, admit that your plate is full - that studying is a priority right now, and that you are unable to manage with anything additional. Those who truly care about you will not view this is a sign of weakness, rather they will respect you for what you are trying to achieve.

  10. Look after yourself

Eat healthily, refrain from drinking too much alcohol, if possible exercise regularly, and most importantly, aim to get a good night sleep every night. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, and it is your responsibility to take care of both. Try not to view time spent looking after yourself as time wasted, rather view it as an investment in your future.



Sep 15, 2014 6:28pm
I was an adult who returned to school. I can attest to it that your suggestions should be taken. It can be a great decision if you have the support of your family.
Sep 18, 2014 2:53am
Thank you for your feedback kellapat, and congratulations on successfully completing your further education as an adult. I am sure you must have been a real inspiration to your children!
Sep 18, 2014 2:53am
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