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You are Not Alone

This article was written by Kim Major, senior academic advisor at Columbia College. 

You are not alone. That statement is as true for an adult student as it was for Fox Mulder in "The X-Files." 

Deciding to begin higher education as an adult or return to it after being away for a long period of time is a courageous choice! It's not going to be as scary as you might think. Here is proof that you are not alone...

  • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that while traditional-age college student enrollment grew by 27 percent from 2000-2009, enrollment by those aged 25 and over grew by 43 percent. 
  • According to NCES, enrollment of non-traditional (adult) students is projected to increase 13 percent between 2011 and 2021. 

How will I choose my first course? What do I need to know about studying? Where can I find help if I struggle? 

Tips for returning and new adult students: 

  • Meet with your advisor. She works for you! Think about your favorite subjects in high school or courses you had success with in college, if you've been before. Your academic advisor will then help you select your first class. 
  • Begin with an introductory course, even if you've attended college before. Try a beginning course* in your major such as BIOL 108, CJAD 101, HUMS 105, MGMT 150, PSYC 101 or SOCI 111, OR take something in an area that interests you, such as HIST 121 or ARTS 105, OR even take a course to help you refresh or learn new skills, such as INCC 123 or ENGL 107. 
  • Before you go to your first night of class or log into an online class, read the course syllabus. Hopefully, you've already looked at it, but take time to read it again. Flip through your textbook. Better yet, read the first chapter. You do have your textbook, don't you? 
  • Get to know fellow students and create a support network; exchange contact information. 
  • Support from family and friends is one of the most important success factors for adult learners. 
  • Utilize two of the best resources on campus (and on your school's website), Tutoring Services and the Library
  • Talk to your instructor, especially if you feel unsure or are struggling. 
  • If your school has one, consult the list of strategies for success specifically for non-traditional adult learners. 

At Columbia College, the Writing Center and Tutoring Services web pages have links to study strategies and skills, including time management, note-taking styles, test-taking tips and other helpful topics. You can also find the current tutoring schedule. The library has course guides for a ton of subjects, from art and biology to psychology and religious studies as well as many other areas tied to specific Columbia College courses. See if your school provides similar resources.

Once you get through that first course, you will be able to build on your experience and become increasingly successful. You are ready to begin!

*Courses referred to are classes at Columbia College, though similar courses should be available at most colleges and universities.

Related content:

Making School Possible

Week in the Life of an Online Student

Find Success as a Non-Traditional Student

Higher Education, Columbia College

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