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Building Resilience as an Adult Student

I actually can achieve my goals

Sometimes the pressures of life, school, work, and family obligations can leave you feeling like it is all too much. When we start experiencing those overwhelmed emotions, it begins easy to consider giving up or letting go of goals that are important to us, simply to get some relief. Your quest for higher education is no different. There may be times during the course of your program when you feel like throwing in the towel. Instead of making a decision may come to regret, use these tips for building resilience to stay strong and keep going.

Remember Why You Started

The first thing you need to do is remember why you started. Can you think back to the very first time you looked at your university’s website and realized you found the place for you? You may have been excited, nervous, curious, or even overwhelmed with all the options at your disposal. Do you remember what led you to click “apply” and enroll? Were you wanting to prove to your children that getting a degree is possible, no matter how late in life? Did you want to check a lifelong goal off your bucket list? Were you hoping to earn a raise or promotion that would ultimately lead to financial freedom for you and your family? Whatever your reason for going back to school was, remember it, write it down, and continually go back to that feeling so you can keep your motivation going, even during difficult times.

Regain control over each precious hour of your day with these life-enhancing  time management tips for adult students.

Break Your Goal into Smaller Tasks

Often times, our to-do lists grow so long, we don't know where to begin. So, instead of beginning a project, we decide to procrastinate by cleaning every room in the house, or sitting down to watch movies on Netflix. SNU Renew Counseling Center’s executive director, Kimberly Campbell, offers an alternative: “Breaking down the tasks at hand into smaller goals to be accomplished when the task feels daunting enables each of us to persist.”

When we cross one of those small tasks off our list, we are able to feel more accomplished, and that momentum will carry us through to Future tasks. All of a sudden, are to-do list doesn't seem so insurmountable, and we are achieving exactly what we set out to do.

Find An Accountability Partner

People generally talk about accountability partners in the sense of fitness programs and goals, but have you considered getting an accountability partner for your coursework? Whether it's a friend from class, your spouse, or someone from work, it can be beneficial to have a person in your corner who is there to keep you accountable to what you set out to do. When you're feeling like quitting, reach out to your accountability partner and share your emotions with them. Make sure they know why you started, and why getting a degree is so important to you so they are prepared to remind you. They should be there to help pick you up when you're not feeling so strong, and cheer you on when you're doing well.

Lean on Your Support System

When you go back to school, it is important to have a support system in place. This can include family members, friends, childcare workers, mental health professionals, and more. Keep a list of them handy so when you're feeling like giving up, you know exactly which person can support you best in the moment. 

“What I know to be true personally and professionally is if we share vulnerably with a trusted colleague or friend, we will cease to be alone in the struggle and that in of itself can be helpful,” Campbell said.

When you're feeling a little bit lonely, it might be fun to set up a coffee date with a friend, or in times of despair, you may need to reach out to a Counseling Center like Renew or the chaplain. These people are there to support you, just like you support them during their difficult times. Don't be afraid to reach out, because the cost of struggling through these feelings of defeat alone is much more than damaged pride.

Reach Out to Your Professor

Don't be afraid to contact your professor, or a previous professor, for suggestions. As instructors, they've worked with students who are in various stages of their education, and likely have some great advice to give to you. Even if your issues is not related to the coursework, they likely have assisted students with similar problems or will be able to connect you to the supports you need to get back on top of your game. Don't worry about looking incapable when reaching out to them. Campbell said it is important to know you are not alone. Many other students face the same challenges, and the fact that you were brave enough to ask for help, and take steps to fix your situation shows more than suffering in silence.

Speak with Your Advisor

Your advisor is there for more than simply adding classes to your schedule. They are often trained in assisting students with academic, professional, and personal success. If you're feeling like you're ready to give up, this is the perfect time to reach out to your advisor and ask for help. Since they work at the University, they're closely connected to supports on campus, and may be able to offer advice that you had not previously considered. Set up a meeting to talk in person or on the phone, and relax knowing that they are there to serve you.

Look for Inspiration

There's nothing wrong with needing to look for a little extra motivation when it seems like all of yours has left the building.

People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily. - Zig Ziglar

Remember what pumps you up, and do it over and over again until the feeling follows. Whether it’s playing a special playlist, searching through inspirational pins on Pinterest, or reaching out to your friends on social media to ask for their favorite quotes. Surround yourself with inspiration, and let it propel you through your degree, and onto graduation.

Take a Break to Recharge

Sometimes feelings of wanting to give up arise out of being overworked and burned out. During this time, do not quit. Instead, learn to rest, recharge, and move forward. All you may need is a good nap, some great food, and a fun outing with your family to start feeling better about the entire situation. Be sure to add self-care to your routine, and constantly be pouring into yourself, so you have the energy you need to pursue a degree as an adult.

Remember All you’ve Accomplished

Whether you're a month into the program or only have a few classes left, take time to consider all that you have already achieved. If you've just started, you can be proud knowing that you took the effort needed to apply, enroll, gather transcripts, and submitted other paperwork to get yourself in the classroom. For those closer to the end of the program, remember all the connections you’ve made with classmates and instructors, think about all the long nights you’ve spent studying or completing homework assignments, and be proud of yourself for what you have done so far and what you will soon accomplish. Even if you're not yet holding your diploma, you have still made great strides toward building your dream life, and that's nothing to minimize. Embrace and celebrate your accomplishments.

Now is the time to dig deep and finish what you started. Our Student Success team, professors, and other staff members at SNU are here to help you along your journey. We've assisted many adults on their journey to higher education, and we are ready to help you too.

time management for adult students

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