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How Adults Can Prepare to Go Back to School

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By Kate Whitney

Going back to school this fall as an adult learner?

If only preparation was as easy as guiding mom toward the least embarrassing pair of sneakers for gym class or picking out an enviable Masters of the Universe lunch box.

The University of Vermont’s Continuing and Distanced Education team has compiled a list of common concerns and helpful hints to assist you as you ready yourself for an upcoming course.

Who’s paying for this?

If you think you’re alone in worrying about how to manage going back to school with all your adult responsibilities, please be assured that your classroom isn’t filled with Rockefellers and lottery winners. Nearly every nontraditional student is in same boat, fretting about the rent or mortgage payment, the gas bill, and wondering if this course means no more Friday pizza nights for the foreseeable future. However, financial aid is not just for younger students, including FAFSA and VA Benefits, and for non-degree students, our Non-Degree Financial Aid Decision Tree can help you determine the types of financial aid for which you may be eligible. We encourage you to speak with one of UVM Continuing and Distance Education’s enrollment advisors to learn more. We’re here to help.

It takes a village.

Taking classes to improve the quality of life for you and your child(ren) is an incredible achievement, but it’s a challenge to go it alone. A supportive partner, friend, family member, or childcare provider can mean the difference between succeeding or falling behind in your studies. UVM has compiled a number of childcare resources, but additional options can include trading babysitting services or playdates with a friend or trusted neighbor, or even hiring a middle or high school student to hang out with your child(ren), prepare meals, or do light housework while you study or take courses online.

Find balance.

Remember when you were in high school or college and going to school was your main job and you thought that was hard? Well, now that you have a career and/or kids (and their sports or music lessons) and car and house payments and actually have to exercise to continue fitting into your wardrobe—how on earth does one manage to add more to an already jam-packed life? At UVM, we understand the challenges of working adults. That’s why UVM offers hundreds of courses online and on campus courses which start later in the afternoon or in the evening.

And you’ve heard it countless times, from flight attendants to therapists: put the oxygen mask on yourself first. There’s no doubt that school will be an additional responsibility and maybe not even one you can handle gracefully 50% of the time. Self-care—including adequate amounts of sleep and healthy eating—is priority one. Choose classes and study times that take place over hours that make sense for you, be firm about keeping to that schedule, and, most importantly, be kind to yourself as you adjust to your new (albeit temporary) normal.

Make connections!

Here’s something really fun about going back to school when you’re older: your UVM professors are also working adults and your peers now. Additionally, it’s unlikely that you’ll be the only adult learner in your class, whether you’re taking a course on campus or online. Reach out to your professors and classmates, leverage their experience and resources, and seize any and every opportunity to share information and advice with people in the know.

Remember: people are doing it because it’s actually worthwhile.

It’s ok to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of going back to school, but you’re not alone, and in today’s job market, it’s not a bad idea (Bain & Company’s 2018 report, “2030: The Collision of Demographics, Automation, and Inequality” stated that “[b]y the end of the 2020s, automation may eliminate 20% to 25% [40 million] of current jobs, hitting middle- to low-income workers the hardest.”). According to National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 7.6 million college students (2 out of every 5) are 25 years old and over and the majority of the Vermont’s high-pay, high-demand jobs require a bachelor’s degree (or higher).

Ditch the fear.

Maybe you have made it through some tough times, experienced a layoff through company downsizing or supported your best friend through chemo. Going back to school can be stressful, but it’s positive and beneficial, and you’ve got this. There’s a strong demand for skilled and educated workers, and your resilience and ambition and stick-to-itiveness will no doubt be a positive mark on your resume. Additionally, at UVM Continuing and Distance Education, we’ve helped thousands of adult students—just like yourself—and the success stories are what keep us motivated to provide more and more opportunities for you to reach higher. We can’t wait to hear yours.

Ready to get started? We recommend that you take one course to give going back to school, a try. It’s easy to register online or if you want to walk through the registration process, UVM CDE Enrollment Coaches are standing by ready to help you find a course or program that meet your needs.

See the full course and program listings online.