Practical Tips for Adults Returning to College
The non-traditional student is on the rise nationwide across college campuses. What is a non-traditional student? Although there exists no strict definition of a non-traditional student, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that non-traditional students are typically distinguished by their age and part-time status. (1)
The non-traditional student is normally older, regarded as financially independent by FAFSA and delays post-secondary college enrollment. According to the Center for Law and Social Policies, over one-third of current undergraduates are 25 years old or older. (2) Perhaps in light of this finding the non-traditional student is genuinely traditional.
Over four-fifths of current undergraduates rely on financial aid to defer the cost of escalating tuition fees. (3) Older non-traditional students heading back to the university should take advantage of federal financial aid and grant opportunities. Financial aid is conducted via the US Department of Education, but financial aid is disbursed by the participating college or university. Grants are also awarded to financially underprivileged students or students boasting extraordinary academic achievement.
The American Association of Community Colleges and <i>US News and World Report</i> note that community colleges nationwide are consolidated in supporting a "Plus 50" program to help returning students. (4) The Plus 50 program seeks to provide returning students with enrichment programs to bolster occupational and lifestyle needs. The American Association of Community Colleges' Plus 50 program equips adult learners with social services and volunteer opportunities as well.
A Day in the Life
Returning adult students should inquire about student life and university resources before culminating the enrollment process at any academic institution. In practical terms this could mean asking current students about rapport between the professors, teacher's aids and students. It might also prove helpful to find out the following: whether most students commute to class, what the student to teacher ratio is, how available parking is, how available teacher's aids and academic counselors are, and the expected workload for non-traditional students.
Computer Literacy Time
With society's shift to the information age, returning students should honestly appraise their computer using skills. A working knowledge of Excel, PowerPoint and Word are considered compulsory for returning students who will need to submit spreadsheets, papers and presentations to professors. Moreover, learning the nuances of PowerPoint will inevitably pay dividends in the working world.
Play the Accountant
Returning students should tabulate basic college expenditures and ascertain whether they have the time and resources for 16 or more credits per semester. It is important to coordinate with financial aid specialists, family members, current college students, and even employers to determine the need, timing and potential of attaining a college degree.
To Return or Not to Return?
Returning to university is certainly not a light commitment, but with a stagnating economy and inhospitable job market now might be the ideal time to bolster your credentials and increase your employability by returning to the classroom. Additionally, today's job market incentivizes the experience and training that many universities pride themselves on.
Tips for staying social while attending an online college
A big drawback to online or distance learning is the lack of direct interaction with other students. One of the benefits of going to school is the feedback and ideas you get from other students, not to mention the sense of camaraderie and possible friendship. But you have your reasons for choosing online courses and the biggest benefit is the flexibility of doing classwork when your busy schedule permits. This is what attracts students to online courses.
Here are some tips on how to solve these problems and stay social while learning online.
Create a Facebook page for your class or major
Creating a Facebook page specific to one of your classes or even to your major’s graduating class is a great way to interact with fellow students and build lasting connections. Seek to take advantage of existing pages or create your own and spread the word among your digital classmates. If a class has a digital board, you could post the link or make an announcement.
Choose a School/Class That Requires Student Interaction
Schools often try to compensate for the lack of direct interaction between students taking online courses. Some of the methods schools employ to combat the problems include chat rooms, virtual classes, online discussion boards, project work, and even email blasts or notifications. Students are encouraged to research class offerings and find a school or program that encourages as much interaction as possible.
Mix Up Online Courses with Traditional Courses
Online courses and programs are chosen for their convenience and their ability to fit with students’ non-traditional schedules. But if you happen to be attending online classes at a school that is in your geographical area, you might want to consider occasionally fitting a traditional course into your schedule. Look for evening or weekend classes that might fit your schedule without causing undo stress on your day-to-day schedule/lifestyle. This will allow you to interact with other students, build relationships that could carry over to your online courses, and gain back some of the face-to-face benefits while still allowing you to take online courses for the majority of your class load.
Connect with other Students through Social Media
Networking is an essential part of education. With the proliferation of social media; it has never been easier. Take advantage of social media by reaching out to classmates. Facebook and Twitter are the obvious choices for social interaction but more professional sites like LinkedIn might help you avoid the awkwardness if you don't know a fellow student that well.
Be sure to take advantage of any opportunity to interact with your fellow classmates, even if you find yourself adjusting your study or learning schedule to optimize the chances of connecting with others. Online classes present some challenges in terms of social interaction but they also introduce a unique opportunity to meet students with diverse backgrounds. Some programs have students from all over the globe enrolled in their courses. Be sure to tap into their professional, cultural, and social backgrounds by interacting often.
Study Tips for Online Students
The number of students taking online classes rises every year as students realize the benefits to online schools. You no longer need to sacrifice your family time or work a different schedule at work to take classes. With online programs, you can study whenever you have the time available and take classes from home. A few simple study tips will help you manage your time effectively.
Write Down a Schedule
When you attend traditional classes, your professor gives you a syllabus that shows you all future assignments and the due dates of those assignments. While an online professor might give you the same information, you're likely to put off those assignments until later. Create a simple schedule that shows you the amount of work that you need to do every week until the semester ends.
Study a Little Every Day
With online classes, you might think that you only need to do a little work throughout the week, and some students find themselves struggling to finish all assignments at the last minute. Most classes now ask students to post on a shared message board, respond to comments from other students, read specific books and papers for class and write papers. It's nearly impossible to get it all done in a single day, but if you take an hour every day for school, you'll get things done faster without feeling stressed.
Make a Study Space
Online students don't have a library where they can work on their coursework, which means that you need to create your own study space at home. Make sure that your family or roommates know that you need to do schoolwork and that you can't be distracted during this time. Turn off or remove any distractions from your study space, including pets, a radio or video games.
Print Out Materials
Many online schools have papers and documents that you need to read every week in addition to your textbook. Reading online can hurt your eyes, make you feel tired and even make you feel stressed. Print out every page that you need for the week, and save those materials in a binder or folder that you keep nearby. When you need that information for a paper or assignment, you can access it in seconds instead of searching through weeks of online discussions.
Communicate with Others
In a normal college, you talk to your professor and discuss things with classmates every time you have class. With online colleges, you only need to make a few posts. You might not even talk to your professor until a problem arises. Take the time to contact others in your class and your professor. You can talk about any issues that you have, learn tips from other students and share information that you might not cover in class.
Following a few simple study tips can help you focus on your assignments, delve deeper into the topic at hand and even share your knowledge with others. These tips will help you narrow down your focus and perform better in class.