It’s not uncommon for a soon-to-be students to wonder if they are ready to enter the world of academia. In my time, I’ve met entrepreneurs, mortgage loan officers, directors, and others who questioned if they were really ready to get their college degree or second degree. The idea of being an adult student made them more nervous than any other endeavor they had accomplished. So, when I am faced with the question of: “Can I handle being an adult student?” my answer remains the same. Yes, however, there is a deeper question to consider: “Are my family members, friends, and/or colleagues ready for me to become a student?”
There are many obstacles that will arise as a student. Children will get sick the night before final exams; the boss will need you to stay late to finish a project, but you have class; older parents who have been healthy for years will fall ill within a week of you starting classes; and spouses will not like the change in the household schedule now that you have to study and complete homework. This is common, but believe me when I say this: You can handle the workload, but you must get your family, colleagues, and close friends on board and let them know that this is a priority for you.
Family: Your family will feel the most “pinch” because their everyday lives will change the most. It’s important to call a family meeting together to discuss what changes may take place and to review the family calendar. Mark the days that you have class and study blocks where you won’t be available. On some days (if you have children), do homework with them so they feel a part of your experience. Discuss with your partner shifts in household duties and what is needed from each person. Make sure that your family knows alternative numbers in case they need you and you can’t be reached on your personal phone. Finally, be honest about how long your degree might take from beginning to end. Your college career will go easier when everyone is committed to your education from the beginning.
Colleagues and Supervisors: Your work family, especially your boss, is another group that will need to know about your academic pursuits. I have found that students ease through their degrees a lot better when they know they have supportive supervisors and colleagues. Find out if your company offers tuition remission programs for you to continue your education. Talk with your boss about course scheduling and gauge whether or not you would be supported in taking select time off to study during exam weeks and/or large projects. Just as with any other endeavor, your college studies will, at times, impact your work life, but it does not have to be a negative experience.
Friends and Community Obligations: This is the hard part. Previous adult students of mine didn’t want to accept my words of advice, and I didn’t want to accept the same words when they were spoken to me, but they must be said.
You may have to cut back on obligations to pursue your academic studies.
Friends are completely supportive of you continuing your education until it impedes on you being able to go out as often as you once did. Places where you’ve volunteered hate the thought of you cutting back hours or eliminating your time completely. Here’s the thing: It’s not forever, but only for a time. Even a part-time student will need to set aside anywhere from 15-21 hours per week (counting class time) for school. Most adults cannot squeeze 15-21 extra hours in a week on top of their regular schedules. Therefore, have a solid conversation with yourself about what you will cut out or cut back on to make school possible. Then, have a conversation with your close friends and those in the community who currently rely on you about your academic pursuits and what it will all require.
As you get closer to that first day of class, make sure that your “ducks are in order” by having meaningful conversations about the next few years of your life. This is definitely your dream, but it will take a whole community to get there.
Keep moving forward!