It’s a harsh reality: As millions of older college students, often referred to as nontraditional students, head off to college, they’re left trying to adjust to an environment that’s built largely around and for younger students.
Yet, many older students are able to adapt to the transition – and with these eight tips from the experts at Communityforce your journey is about to get infinitely easier.
1. Find the school that fits
When choosing the schools you’d like to apply to, it’s important to take your normal routine into consideration. Is the college located near your home or easily accessible by public transportation? If you have children, is it along the route you use to pick up and drop off the kids?
Perhaps the potential school offers additional benefits, such as childcare or online learning, that allow you to easily incorporate it into your current lifestyle.
2. Seek out financial aid opportunities
A common mistake nontraditional students make is assuming they’re no longer qualified to receive scholarships, grants or other forms of financial aid. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
According to the Federal Student Aid website, there are no age restrictions on eligibility for federal student aid; likewise, many outside scholarships and grants do not exclude older students from their applicant pool. As a nontraditional student, you should also note you may be eligible for opportunities that new students may not be. Some scholarships, for example, are only open to students who are 30 and older.
3. Establish priorities, boundaries and a healthy routine
Unlike many of your younger student counterparts, you may also be balancing school on top of a part- or full-time job, a family and a mortgage payment. Given all your responsibilities, it’s important to keep your priorities aligned and establish a set of boundaries.
Consider dedicating a specific time slot to completing course assignments. Your schoolwork may not always fit neatly into that box; however, most of the time, it should help prevent having your head buried in a textbook when you’d rather be reading your children their favorite bedtime story.
Above all, make sure you get enough sleep. It might seem like a good idea to put a few extra hours of work in at night, but chances are, you’ll regret it the next day when you need that energy to get through your busy day.
4. Use downtime wisely
They say time is of the essence, and that holds especially true for nontraditional students. When you have a variety of tasks you need to complete, it’s especially important to make use of every minute.
When you find yourself with downtime between classes or while waiting for your kids to get out of school, crack open a book and start studying. If you have a longer commute, consider listening to audiobooks and podcasts that will further your learning.
5. Allow room for errors
Every major life change – whether going back to school, starting a new job or welcoming a new addition to the family – comes with a learning curve. Give yourself enough leniency and self-compassion to adjust to your new lifestyle.
Additionally, as the Franklin University Back to College blog pointed out, you should keep in mind even the best laid plans will need to be adjusted from time to time, particularly as your circumstances change. Consider evaluating your schedule, habits and commitments periodically to ensure they still align with your needs.
6. Forge new friendships
As an older college student, it can be tempting to alienate yourself from your peers. After all, you’re barely on campus and you have no plans on rushing a fraternity or sorority. Yet one of the additional benefits of college is getting to interact with those who are different from you. Doing so will not only provide you with a broader perspective, it will enrich your school experience that much more.
7. Don’t go it alone
As you embark on the journey of returning to school, it’s important to remember there are a variety of sources you can turn to for help. Struggling with an assignment? Attend office hours with your professor or ask for further clarification. Feel like you’re carrying more than your weight at home? Ask your family members to contribute more with some of the chores.
8. Take time to celebrate
It can be easy to get caught up in continuously pushing forward, but for the sake of your sanity and well-being, make sure you take time to celebrate your accomplishments along the way. Did you ace that paper you were sweating? Give yourself an extra half hour of relaxation time that evening.
Make it through your first semester relatively unscathed? Go out for a night on the town with your family or friends. Remember: It’s OK to let yourself – and others – be proud of your work.
For more information on financial and educational planning, visit Communityforce website today!