Advice for Going Back to School as an Adult

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So you’re thinking of going back to school? Whether you feel like you missed your calling, you’ve decided to change a career path, or you’re finally pursuing a Ph.D. now that the kids are out of the house, you are not alone. Getting a degree is becoming the new norm for the 40 and over crowd.

Yet, school has changed so much since the last time you were there. Whether it’s business school, medical school, or architectural construction management school, how do you know if you are ready?

Don’t sweat it. Chances are your life experience gives you a leg up on most of your competition—even some of your professors and interviewers. The wisdom that you gained from the last two, three or four decades since you were in school provide you a competitive advantage. Furthermore, thanks to LSAT, GMAT, and MCAT course options available online and in-person, preparation has gotten more accessible and convenient. As for new technology and the fact that you haven’t written an essay in a while, those are all skills that you can grow to achieve as you’re pursuing your dream.

Tip #1: Remember Your Strengths

Something has allowed you to survive life this long. It might be tenacity, it might be intelligence, it might be faith… likely it’s a combination of these three things and more.

If you’re experiencing anxiety about enrolling in graduate school or are looking for a direction in what to pursue ask yourself this question: what am I best at?

Sit down and make a list of all of your strengths. Then make a list of all the strengths that used to be weaknesses. Realistically, take a look at how you’ve grown and recognize that you have the power to learn any skill you put your mind to.

When you know what your strengths are, you’ll be able to apply them to any and all situations college will throw at you. Whether you’re talented in the area you were studying, or you have to work really hard to achieve your dream, bolstering your strengths and strengthening your weaknesses will be a powerful way to elevate your academic skills.

Tip #2: Ask For Help

Remember that your teachers, your spouse, your children, and your friends are there to support you in this big life change. As you are pursuing a new career, be humble enough to ask questions. Asking is the most important form of learning as it not only allows you to fill in your own gaps, but it also allows you to think independently on the subject at hand to truly understand it.

If you were nervous about the technological advances of the educational system, talk to your kids or even the younger students in your class about how to use software. If you’re uncomfortable asking directly, using Google to find informative blog posts or YouTube videos is an excellent way to teach yourself how to use technology.

Tip #3: Create a Reward System

It’s likely been a long time since you last crammed for an exam, but chances are you enjoyed it then about as much as you will now.

Studying can be interesting. Occasionally you’ll read a book that captivates your attention and reminds you of why you’re getting into your desired field. However, most people do not enjoy reading and reviewing notes to for tests.

When you are studying, create a reward system. Some students lay out pieces of chocolate on their textbooks and whenever they finish the paragraph, they eat the piece of chocolate. Some students study for 20-minute blocks and then give themselves a five-minute break. Some students set out an ambitious goal to finish a project or get a certain grade on a test and then reward themselves with a steak dinner.

Whatever your goal, be sure that your reward is proportionate to your meeting it.

Going back to school is something to be celebrated. Remember what it was like to be a student for the first time. Give yourself grace and patience, but most of all, be excited about all the doors your new degree will open for you.