Dollars & Sense

5 Tips for Working Adults Returning to College

Working toward a degree can be intensive; create the right environment to focus and study.
January 2018

Most working professionals want to advance their skills, land that promotion and get a raise. However, millions of adults face a significant barrier to achieving their goals: They still need to complete a significant amount of coursework in order to earn a college degree.

The demands of family life and maintaining a career, along with a lack of financial resources, can both be forces that derail plans to finish a degree.

Fortunately, the pathways to earning a college degree are evolving, and a working professional now has more affordable and efficient means to finish the coursework. With a smart strategy, a busy working professional can make earning a diploma a reality.

• Define your goals

Some people know exactly what they want from life and how a college degree will help them fulfill their goals. Others may have more general ambitions related to finishing the degree, but they may need to take time to create a more detailed plan. In either case, before choosing a higher education program, it’s important to take time to inventory skills and career experiences. The insights from this exercise can be helpful in charting your course to earning that diploma.

• Explore your financial options

For a working adult, using traditional means to earn a degree isn’t always best-suited to the realities of life – not to mention finances. With the demands of family and work encroaching on study and class time, fitting it all in can seem overwhelming.

It’s important to take time to research your options, because there may be more flexible and affordable paths to choose from.

• Get organized

Working toward a degree can be an intense experience for anyone, which is why it’s important to create the right environment to focus and study. Start by setting up a study station. Ideally, this is a desk or table that’s clean, well-lit and organized with plenty of supplies on hand, and a comfortable chair.

• Get Support

With the demands of school and work, now is an appropriate time to seek help from family and friends. Talk to your partner, parents or siblings about taking on child care duties a few days or evenings a week so you can work without interruption.

Beyond that, consider informing your employer about your college courses and your goals. If your degree is relevant to other work at the company, you might discover they are willing to help. After all, they already have an employee who knows the business, and they will more than likely appreciate your ambition.

• Seek balance

When life gets this hectic, especially when it’s consumed with family, work and school, it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends, leaving you feeling overextended and burned out. This is why it’s important to schedule some down time. Having a break to look forward to can be a powerful motivational tool. Maybe it’s a weekly bike ride, or relaxing with a favorite movie.


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