As you enter adulthood and the busyness of life creeps in, big dreams of returning to college can feel far away. Your schedule is demanding and family responsibilities take up a lot of your time. Maybe you’re also focused on moving up the career ladder. As you consider the prospects of going back to school, it’s easy to get in your own head about whether it’s too late or if you can find the program that’s right for you.
The landscape of adult education is transforming quickly, and the places where adult students may have previously hit roadblocks have been replaced with more flexible, accommodating educational environments. The truth is that there’s never been a better time for adult students to go after their academic pursuits.
Students of all ages and from all backgrounds, including first-generation students, are turning to college as an opportunity to further their careers and provide opportunities for their families. Resources are available to guide you at every turn, from robust course offerings to flexible class schedules, virtual/hybrid learning models and understanding support staff dedicated to seeing you succeed.
Here, we dispel some of the most common myths that may be keeping you from enrolling and suggest resources available to you along your path toward graduation. The hardest part is getting started. With the right mindset, resources and dedication, college success is just around the corner.
Myth #1: It’s too late to go back.
Many adults wonder if it’s too late to go back to school. After reaching major professional achievements and personal milestones of your own, whether that’s starting your own business, entering the workforce, joining the military or raising a family, you may feel like the door to a college education has closed.
But no matter your age, it’s truly never too late to pursue an adult education at any level. Adult learners often worry that they’ll be the oldest student in class, and as a result, they fear not being able to relate to classmates. However, the demographics of today’s college students are more diverse than ever before. Diversity in the classroom equates to more nuanced discussions and shared experiences. Students who have benefited from diverse classroom settings are better equipped to interact with and support colleagues of all ages, races, genders and backgrounds as they enter the workforce.
Although it’s normal to have some reservations about stepping foot in the classroom as an adult, the truth is that there are resources to support you at every step of the way, from academic counselors to peer cohorts and student resource centers, like the VETS Center for military veterans.
Myth #2: I don’t have the time.
As you get older and take on additional responsibilities, life gets busy. For adults who have families of their own, it can seem impossible to cram one more thing into an already busy day-to-day routine filled with carpool pickups, soccer practices, after-school activities, and parent-teacher conferences — not to mention the stresses of work life and projects to get done at home.
Luckily, schools understand the pressure adult students are under. Flexible class schedules and office hours help you get the most out of your schooling without feeling overwhelmed. Choose from classes offered exclusively in the evening or on the weekends. SNU offers both accelerated programs and rolling start dates so you can work at a pace that serves you and your family.
Myth #3: I can’t make it to in-person classes.
There are lots of reasons why in-person classes may not be an option for you or could deter you from pursuing an education: long working hours, evening conflicts, lengthy commutes.
In the wake of COVID-19, universities of all sizes had to learn how to adapt coursework and schedules. Both students and professors soon discovered that virtual learning was not only possible, but in some cases, preferred. In addition to keeping students and staff safe during a precarious time, virtual and hybrid learning options have made coursework more accessible than ever before.
SNU offers online degree programs specifically geared toward adults so that you can learn on your own time without the commute or classroom restraints. SNU online courses are offered at the associate, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels. Students take one class at a time so they’re not overwhelmed by heavy coursework or complicated schedules. Students enjoy multiple start dates throughout the year and a built-in support system invested in their academic success.
Myth #4: Learning new things will be too hard.
We all face periods of self-doubt when setting out on a new venture. We often question our own abilities or anticipate that others will judge us harshly. It’s natural to have reservations about going back to school, especially if we’ve been away for a while or are returning to complete a specific degree. A positive outlook can go a long way in reassuring ourselves that the goal we’ve set is totally achievable and within our control.
It’s important to remember that all of us are lifelong learners, and while people like to make sweeping generalizations about how our ability to learn changes over time, the science reveals findings that are much more complex. Timothy A. Salthouse, professor of psychology and director of the Cognitive Aging Laboratory at the University of Virginia points out a “considerable variation” in cognitive aging amongst different people of the same age.
Regardless, if you are determined to learn a new skill, earn a certification or complete your degree, you shouldn’t let any age-based generalizations stand in your way of doing so.
Myth #5: The degree I earn won’t benefit me.
Most of the time, adults choose to go back to school by their own volition. In some cases, it’s a former or current employer who has encouraged you to return to school to pursue a specific certification or degree program. If going back to school was someone else’s suggestion, you’re likely approaching the topic with a certain degree of hesitation.
However, there are a number of ways that a degree can benefit you personally, even if you change employers long after earning your degree. Besides attaining a degree or certification to solidify your prospects with a specific employer, boosting your level of education gives you a competitive edge. Both your employability and earning potential go up when you have an educational background that sets you apart from the competition.
Students who pursue their education as adults can also leverage the relationships they build in and out of the classroom to expand their professional network. Whether you are entering the workforce for the first time, perhaps as a military veteran, or simply brushing up on the latest skillset in your industry, getting to know others just entering the field may improve your professional prospects post-graduation. At the very least, you’ll have peers to talk to who find themselves job hunting at the same time you do after graduation.
Myth #6: It’s too expensive.
Many students who are considering college hesitate over tuition fees and other associated costs. There’s no doubt that a decision to return to college must also take into account the financial responsibilities involved. Students might get scared off without realizing the full extent of resources available to them to offset and manage costs.
Don’t let the cost of education hold you back from achieving your academic dreams. SNU offers both tuition assistance and financial aid so that you can pursue your education without worry. With help from the financial aid office at SNU, you’ll be able to estimate the total cost of college (including hidden expenses like childcare), gather and submit all necessary documentation to apply for financial aid, and fill out all accompanying FAFSA forms to help you get started.
Some employers offer tuition assistance to cover the cost of your coursework — receive up to $5,250 per year to pay for courses, fees and course materials. In some cases, employers pay for an employee’s education and course materials outright; in other cases, an employee will be reimbursed for any and all education expenses.
For more information about how to fill out FAFSA and the financial aid options available to you, read SNU’s “Complete Guide to Financial Aid,” which you can download for free.
See what adult education opportunities exist for you at SNU.
Every student is as unique as the educational opportunities set before them. There’s no one-size-fits all, cookie cutter learning model that benefits each student equally. But with the right preparation and access to resources and a support system to turn to, you’ll absolutely find an adult education program that suits your needs.
Learn more about SNU’s undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as the resources available to you as you embark on your journey into the world of education.