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Back to School for Working Adults: Here’s How to Thrive

College and University Blog - Resources, help, and insight for your college experience

College isn’t for everyone. Some teenagers head straight into the workforce after high school. Others enroll in college classes, only to quit for one reason or another. But many people go back to school later in life to earn a degree or make a career change. If you’re ready to make the leap, the following advice can help you achieve your goal of becoming a college graduate!

Be realistic when you register for classes.

Going back to school after an extended time away or taking college classes for the first time as an adult can be an exciting yet stressful experience, especially if you have a full-time job or a family—or both! Pay careful attention when signing up for your classes. Will you honestly have enough time to leave work at rush hour and drive across town to campus? Will your current work schedule leave you enough time to take online classes? You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew!

Tell your boss you are taking classes.

Your friends and family will probably be among the first to know your decision to earn a college degree. It’s also a good idea to inform your employer or at least your immediate supervisor. If a work project runs late or a meeting is scheduled while you’re supposed to be in class, you’ll have to rearrange your schedule.

Find out about tuition reimbursement.

Financial aid like grants, scholarships, and student loans help many working adults pay for college. Some employers also offer financial assistance in the form of tuition reimbursement if you meet certain requirements. The qualifications that you must have and the amount of assistance will vary depending on your place of employment. If you aren’t sure whether or not a program exists at your workplace, check your employee handbook or contact the Human Resources department. It can’t hurt to ask!

Make childcare arrangements.

If you have kids who aren’t old enough to take care of themselves, you may need to adjust your current childcare arrangements to reflect your new role as a college student. Will someone else have to pick the kids up from school? Drive them to soccer, ballet, karate, or other after-school activities? Stay with them at your home until you’re back from class? If you can pick them up yourself or they can ride the bus home, will you need a baby-sitter to make dinner and get them ready for bed when you have a night class?

Have a backup plan.

If a major catastrophe takes place, classes and homework will probably be two of the last things on your mind. But if a minor setback pops up, like your child has a cold or the friend or relative who usually helps you has to go out of town, can someone else step in? Have a few tentative ideas in place. You might need to use them if you’re in a pinch.

Create a quiet place at home that’s just for homework or online classes.

Online college classes are pretty common these days. Many students assume they can log in from their laptop anywhere, which is technically true. But how much information will you actually retain if you’re plopped down on the couch with the TV blaring in the background? You will want a quiet place at home where you can concentrate with your computer and textbooks, even if you’re physically going to class on campus. Inform your family members that when you’re working on schoolwork—in your bedroom, home office, or wherever your quiet place may be—that you shouldn’t be disturbed unless it’s an emergency.

Know that grades aren’t everything.

If you were a straight-A student back in high school or when you were in college last time, you might be heartbroken to earn a B. Don’t let it get to you! Your life is probably a lot busier these days than it was back then. You have more responsibilities and people who are depending on you. As long as you are learning and understanding the concepts enough to progress to the next class, a B or even a C here and there won’t be the end of the world.

Are you thinking about going back to college? Browse our comprehensive school profiles and college ratings for more information!

Read More:

You Can Do It: Juggle School, Work and Your Social Life

10 Terrible Reasons to Go to Grad School

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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David Salitory over 3 years ago David Salitory


Online Colleges are the new norm. It is also the most convienient way to take classes if you work full time. I have good friends at www.truenorthbrands.com that are manufacturer representatives for Target and have taken online classes and they said with video conferencing that online classes now feels just like you are there in the classroom. From an employer perspective there will still be some employers that prefer traditional colleges but online has become more widely accepted.