Adults pursuing higher education face unique challenges. Unlike traditional, younger university students, they are more likely to have families, jobs, and bills to pay. And if it’s been awhile since they were in school, they may feel overwhelmed by the new systems, policies, and schedules they must navigate.
If you’re an adult learner, remember: none of these challenges is insurmountable. With support from family, school, and your church community, you can clear every hurdle that stands in your way and complete your degree program.
When you’re considering going back to school, it helps to sit down, clear your mind, and make a
list of what you’ll need to succeed. Go through a step-by-step process that will help you order your thoughts and make good decisions.
How To Succeed In College
Before you can tackle your challenges, you have to know what they are. Let’s take a closer look at the types of barriers adult learners face and how Point University will help you overcome them.
Universities are big places. If you have never attended one or are enrolling again after many years, the systems and procedures that govern student life can seem puzzling at first. From admissions requirements to registering for courses, it might take time to learn how everything works.
At Point, we appreciate that adult learners may be venturing into unfamiliar territory. Our enrollment staff will walk you through every step on the path from enrollment to graduation. We’re here to remove institutional barriers and involve you in the educational decision-making process in every way we can.
When you have a family, it can be hard to balance school with finding child care, planning a commute, and meeting financial obligations. Constraints like these keep many would-be adult learners from going back to school in the first place, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate the time and expense of these situational barriers. For example, distance education is helping thousands of parents and adults with jobs complete a degree program without having to leave home or find someone to pick the kids up from school. Point’s virtual classrooms enable students to attend class on their own time, which means many of our students can enjoy a fulfilling college experience without altering their current work schedules. Finances present another situational barrier, which is why our Financial Aid Office will help you identify all of the grants and scholarships for which you qualify. You might be surprised at the opportunities you have to make your education more affordable!
What are some of the dispositional, or personal, barriers to success as an adult learner? Here are the most common ones we see at Point:
• Apprehension about the unknown
• Finding time to study
• Cultivating the self-discipline to attend class
• Staying confident
While these challenges have little to do with the school you attend or your obligations to work and
family, they have everything to do with you. Going back to school is a huge commitment, it’s true, but with support and prayers from friends, family, your congregation, and Point, you will have dozens — if not hundreds — of shoulders to lean on should you ever feel overwhelmed.
Point also offers valuable on and off-campus resources that will help you in your educational journey. Counselors, study circles and prayer groups will help you stay on top of your work and maintain your confidence. If you’re attending classes at one of our locations, we also provide quiet study areas called Educational Resource Centers where you can focus and be productive.
It helps to remember that you’re not the only adult student facing significant institutional, situational, and dispositional challenges. At Point, you’ll be studying with others like you who are balancing school, work, and family responsibilities — people with whom you can form a support network as you work toward your goals.
Use The Theory Of Margin To Take Control Of Your Education
Adult learners bring a wealth of real-world experiences to the classroom. In many cases, they also bring a wealth of existing commitments. From family obligations to community involvement, it’s common for adult students to struggle with external pressure from jobs, spouses, children, and finances in addition to the responsibilities of being a student.
For decades, educational scholarship has explored how adults manage to fit education into their busy schedules. One of the seminal theories to emerge from this research is the so-called “Theory of Margin,” first defined by the esteemed educational gerontologist, Howard McClusky, in the 1960s.
According to the Theory of Margin, adult learners live with two competing forces: their load (obligations in life) and their power (the time, ability and resources needed to meet those obligations). Margin is what’s left over when a student’s power over her life exceeds her load of responsibilities.
As you head back to school, you should identify ways to increase your margin. You can do so by reducing your load, increasing your power, or both.
Lightening Your Load
As school increasingly becomes a part of your life, consider reducing your commitments to other activities in an effort to minimize your load. Don’t worry! We’re not saying you should suddenly stop working, paying bills, and helping out at your church. Many commitments must remain commitments, no matter how demanding your education program. But others might be more flexible.
For example, consider scaling back your working hours to make more time for studying. Many employers will be open to modifying your schedule or temporarily letting you work part-time, especially if they know it’s to help with your education. Do you usually cook for your family? Talk to your spouse about taking over dinner preparation on days or evenings when you’re in class. The more time you have to focus on school, the more likely you are to achieve your goals.
If finances feature prominently in your collection of “load” items, talk to the financial aid office about scholarships and grants for which you might be eligible. Most adult students at Point receive some kind of financial aid, and you might be surprised at the amount for which you qualify. Also consider reducing personal expenses in an effort to direct more funds toward education. Simple changes like driving less, preparing meals at home, and being conservative with your thermostat can pad your pocket and ease the financial burden of going back to school.
Gaining More Power
Much like reducing your load, gaining power over your life can increase your margin (and likelihood of success) for educational pursuits. One way to acquire more power is to ask others for support.
Make sure your family understands that education is about to be a major part of your life, and ask them to help however they can. The same goes for friends and church leaders. Let them know what you’re doing, and ask for their prayers and assistance.
Taking advantage of school resources is another way to gain power over your education. Working with tutors, speaking with counselors, and using quiet study spaces around campus can help you focus on your work and achieve your goals. Remember: faculty and staff are there to help you succeed!
Finally, don’t forget to pray for wisdom and guidance as you enter this new phase of your life. There are sure to be challenges, but God is good and will be there to empower and inspire you, every step of the way.
Take Advantage Of Your Resources
Adult students at Point University have many resources available to them. We encourage students to make the most of these resources during their time at Point to help them achieve — and exceed — their academic goals.
At the Educational Resource Center, students can find any extra academic support they need to be successful at Point University. The Center offers one-on-one tutoring for writing and math and works with students to develop skills like time management and test-taking strategies. It includes a quiet room, a testing center, and a Writing Center, which can assist students at any stage in the writing process. Point University students can also access additional resources free of charge at the H. Grady Bradshaw Chambers County Library. The Lindbergh off-site location’s library provides research materials and learning resources, as well as a dedicated computer lab and study area.
Students at Point University all have academic advisors to help them plan and realize their educational goals. Academic advising helps students make informed choices about how to pursue their objectives. Advisors offer their experience and insights in choosing the appropriate course of study, as well as other educational opportunities to enrich and fulfill students’ individual academic ambitions. As an adult student, the perspective of an academic advisor can be especially beneficial when it comes to making the right scholastic choices.
Point University provides dedicated support for adult students through our enrollment team. Team members are committed to helping prospective students make a successful transition into the adult-learning program. The enrollment team utilizes the StrengthsQuestTM system to help students recognize and focus on their talents in order to discover and achieve the most rewarding educational path moving forward.
Treat Yourself With Compassion
As a returning adult student, you face a number of challenges. These come from everyday life, existing commitments to family, church, and work. But you can also face internal challenges, in the form of your own self-judgment.
Most of us really are our own worst critics. We can be hard on ourselves, and when we don’t meet our own standards, we can get discouraged. Ultimately, this can be very detrimental — people who are busy beating up on themselves may have a hard time achieving what they set out to do. However, you can learn to be gentle with yourself. One way to do so is to learn to set realistic goals.
While recognizing that friends, family, and others may have expectations of their own, your expectations of yourself are the ones you’ll focus on most. Make sure they’re realistic.
How do you do that?
First, don’t go it alone! Discuss your goals with the people closest to you, especially those who will be most impacted by your decisions about education. You might also consider asking one of your church ministers or someone else you trust for impartial and objective advice about what constitutes a realistic expectation. Ultimately, it’s up to you to define expectations for yourself, but it can help to have others offer their perspectives on things.
Strengths and Weaknesses
When it comes to setting realistic goals, you need to be entirely honest with yourself about both your strengths and weaknesses. Are you good at budgeting time, or are you easily distracted? Are you diligent until the task at hand is complete, or does your attention wander? Can you prioritize, or do you do the things you want to do first, only eventually getting around to doing what is necessary?
These are all questions you need to answer, and you may even consider asking for candid feedback from others about what they perceive your strengths and weaknesses to be. If you are entertaining this possibility, proceed with caution — you may not always like what you hear! Listen to others’ opinions carefully and understand that they support you and are trying to be constructive. Then pray for the willpower to capitalize on your strengths and improve on your shortcomings.
The best thing about setting a realistic expectation is actually meeting it. Congratulate yourself when you reach your goals. If you make an A in a class, be proud of it, and let the people around you offer you their praise as well. If you successfully complete a semester, take the time to celebrate that before you start worrying about the next one. When you treat yourself as lovingly as you would treat any other person you cherish, you set yourself up for success.