When you started college the first time around, you were 18 and fresh out of high school, and when you graduated, you certainly didn’t think you’d be going through the whole thing again. Yet people and circumstances change, and it’s actually not uncommon for those who already hold a bachelor’s degree to return to school in order to pursue a different career than the one they prepared for. Another reason might be because you have a generalist degree and you need something more specialized to advance in your current field. This might involve getting a master’s degree, but in some cases, it can mean getting a second bachelors. In either case, it is usually a big adjustment, but the tips below can help.
Have the Right Mindset
Returning to a college campus after a few years or a few decades can make you feel a range of emotions–humbled, excited, or anxious, to name just a few. It’s normal to feel any of those things and more, and you should allow yourself to work through these emotions. However, it’s also important to make sure that you have the right mindset. Try to look on this as an opportunity even if you are apprehensive or have mixed emotions. It can be tough if you’re older than your professors or your classmates are the same age as your children, but it is important to approach this experience with an open mind. Stay focused on your goals and on what you can learn from others.
Manage Your Money
The challenges that you have in managing your money will vary based on your individual situation. You may have a family, be taking classes online, have your tuition paid by your employer or be footing the entire bill for your education yourself. One of the most daunting aspects of going back to school is that if you are like many people, you may still be paying back student loans from your first degree. If this is the case, you might want to look into refinancing those loans. This can lower your monthly expenses and take off some of the financial pressure. Depending on your financial situation, you may want to make a budget to help you get through the next few years.
Getting Family Support
If you have a partner and children, you will need to turn to them for support. Your partner may have to take on more financial, domestic, or child care obligations. If you have older children, they might be able to take on some household chores as well. You might need to talk to your family about giving you more space to study, or you might want to find a coffee shop or use the school library to get some quiet place. As a parent, it can be tough to feel okay about taking this time away from your kids, but your earning power may increase, and you will also be setting a good example for them about working hard and following your dreams.
When you got your first undergraduate degree, everything was new. You probably assumed that going to college was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Going back several years or several decades later can feel a little bit discouraging sometimes, and it’s important to stay focused despite that. It can help to write down your goals and why you are doing it so that you can refer back to it when you are struggling. Make concrete goals that you can work toward, such as achieving a certain grade point average.
Many professors love having nontraditional students in their classes. Older adults tend to be more motivated than younger students and have a better idea of what they want to do. You should make a point to stop by the offices of your professors at least once and introduce yourself. In addition, you should make an effort to build relationships with your fellow students. Most likely, you will not be the only student in your class of a nontraditional age, but you should also try to get to know the students that may be much younger than you. You might be surprised at how much a shared interest in the class topic allows you to bridge an age gap, and you may even be working with some of your classmates in your future profession.