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Adult Learner

Going Back To School As An Adult: How To Do It

If you’ve made the choice to enroll in college after a short (or lengthy) break, congrats! The first step is always the hardest. Adult learners face unique challenges when returning to the classroom, but they also bring a lot of valuable life experience to the table. Don’t let your concerns hold you back from achieving your goals.

Don’t let your concerns hold you back from achieving your goals. Our blog and infographic provide actionable steps to help you succeed in your educational endeavors.

going back to school as an adult infographic

Overcoming 3 common obstacles of adults going back to school

You’ll be happy to hear that you’re not the first adult student to pursue a college degree — and you certainly won’t be the last! 90% of UMass Global students are 25 years of age and older. Hear from three of our graduates who once faced the same obstacles you are.

Affording tuition

Balancing college costs as a working adult can be challenging, but there are strategies to make it feasible:

  • Financial Aid: Seek low-interest federal loans and aid for adult learners or go to your school's financial aid office, they can assist in finding suitable resources.
  • Tuition Assistance Programs: Check if your employer offers support for back-to-school adults, as many workplaces provide tuition assistance.
  • Scholarships: Apply for adult learner scholarships to ease financial burdens while returning to school.
  • Online Programs: Consider accredited online courses with accelerated options for flexibility and cost savings.
  • Credit for Prior Experience: Explore schools offering credits for your professional, educational, or military background.

    Additionally, research loan forgiveness initiatives in your career field. For example, University of Massachusetts Global alumna Sharon Ishida Nakama secured $17,000 in loan forgiveness as a teacher. By being resourceful, your journey as an adult student can be both manageable and rewarding.

    Returning to school after a long hiatus

    Adult students returning to school after a break often grapple with questions like:

  • Can I keep up with the class work?
  • Do I remember how to write a research paper?
  • Will I fit in with other students?
  • Can I complete college courses online with technology advancing?

    Facing these doubts head-on is crucial to avoid imposter syndrome. Seek guidance from your academic advisor or student support office. They can connect you with tutors, mentors, and writing coaches to ensure your success.

    Barbara Pitts, who pursued a bachelor’s degree with UMass Global at the age of 50, initially worried about fitting in with younger students. However, she found a diverse mix of students of all ages, enriching everyone's learning experience. Her advice to fellow adult learners: "Just go for it! Don’t let age intimidate you. You have much to offer and will be rewarded in return."

    Balancing work, school and family

    Most adult students returning to school juggle full-time jobs and family commitments, raising concerns about managing all three successfully. But with careful planning and commitment, it is achievable. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Employ time management hacks to optimize each day.
  • Be open with family and friends about your commitments and seek their support.
  • Maintain open communication with your workplace, negotiating for flexible work hours if possible.
  • Prioritize self-care to stay balanced.

    Elizabeth Bader, a University of Massachusetts Global graduate, pursued her master's degree in organizational leadership amidst a divorce and caring for her infant son. She completed her program in two years, thanks to the university's understanding of her life's constraints. Her advice: "Pace yourself at first. Find a program that understands the demands of being a working, parenting student."

    Practical advice for adults going back to college

    Going back to college is a significant and courageous decision that opens the doors to new opportunities and personal growth. As an adult learner, you bring unique experiences and responsibilities, making your journey back to education both exciting and challenging.

    Starting a bachelor’s degree program as an adult learner might feel intimidating and overwhelming, but don't let that deter you. With the right approach, you can overcome your fears and set yourself up for a rewarding educational experience. Here are four essential tips to begin your back-to-school journey confidently and successfully.

    Select a school that suits your needs

    Going back to school as an adult can be a transformative and rewarding experience, but finding the right educational institution to meet your needs is essential for a successful journey. Take the time to research and choose a school that offers the resources, flexibility, and support you need to thrive on this exciting educational journey.

    Choosing the ideal learning format can significantly impact your educational experience as an adult learner. Both online and in-person programs offer unique advantages tailored to different preferences and lifestyles.

    To make an informed decision, consider the following factors of online programs and know which elements are most important for your lifestyle:


  • Flexibility and Convenience
  • Personalized Pacing
  • Access to Diverse Programs
  • Enhanced Learning Environment
  • Technology Integration
  • Cost-Effectiveness
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Accessible Support Services
  • Career Advancement Opportunities
  • Adaptable Learning Environment
  • Consider your future career possibilities

    One of the most crucial steps in your educational journey is researching your future career possibilities. Choosing the right career path that aligns with your interests, skills, and aspirations can significantly impact your success and fulfillment.

    When considering your educational path, you'll encounter various program options, such as certifications, associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, and master’s degrees. Certifications qualify you for specific positions in specialized areas, while associate degrees offer focused job training in about two years, and bachelor's degrees provide a broader education in approximately four years or less if you have previous college credits being transferred over. Master’s degrees typically add specialized skills that expand your career options and earning potential.

    After deciding on the degree type, research schools offering programs in your desired field. Visit their websites to explore course offerings and understand the admission process. Collect the necessary documents for a successful application.

    With these considerations in mind, you can confidently choose the right program and school to embark on a rewarding educational journey that aligns with your career goals and lifestyle.

    Schedule a meeting with an admissions counselor

    An admissions counselor is your dedicated partner who will provide personalized assistance tailored to your goals and aspirations. They will take the time to understand your individual circumstances, academic background, and career objectives, ensuring that you find the right program that fits your needs.

    Connect with an academic advisor for personalized support

    Experienced academic advisors are here to understand your individual goals, interests, and challenges. By connecting with them, you'll receive tailored guidance that aligns with your aspirations, ensuring you make informed decisions about your academic choices like program exploration, degree planning, and more.

    Start writing your adult student success story

    Going back to school as an adult has its challenges, but the benefits far outweigh the sacrifices. Let these graduate stories inspire you to conquer any concerns you have and achieve your educational goals.

    “Do not doubt your abilities,” Nakama says. “If the person next to you can do it, then you can too!”

    University of Massachusetts Global offers programs designed specifically for adult students like you. Our numbers tell the tale — over 90% of UMass Global students are over the age of 25; the average age of our students is 36. Students feel at home because of their shared circumstances. Over 52% of our alumni had one or more dependents while they were completing their coursework at UMass Global. Explore our programs now to find one that helps you achieve your goals.

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