All students entering college go through a period of adjustment. However, Adult Students may need special assistance if they are to succeed. Siebert (1996) suggests that it is important for administrators, faculty, and student services staff to understand the fears, concerns, and challenges that are common to adult learners.
As the Adult Student Advisor here at UW-Barron County, it is important to share some of these concerns with you and show you how we are helping Adult Students overcome these areas as a way to increase the retention and success rate of adult learners.
Balancing Family, Job & Education
Most adult learners share the challenges that face all students plus concerns about their families and careers. “If I become a student, I’ll never have time for my family.” “What if my partner feels threatened by my attempt to improve myself?” “What if I have a sick child, my car breaks down, or I have an emergency at work?” (Bolsen & Bailey, 1992) A majority of prospective adult students I have talked with about returning to school have voiced these concerns at one time or another.
UW-Barron County understands that each student has a life outside of the classroom. As a result, our faculty and staff are accommodating. We offer late afternoon and evening classes to fit into the working Adult Student’s schedule. We also offer workshops to provide student tips in how to manage their time.
Some Adult Students, particularly single parents, are impoverished or threatened by poverty. The stress of trying to put together various sources of funding, such as federal aid, scholarships, and part-time or full-time employment to cover the tuition, fees, books, and cost of living can be overwhelming. Another major concern is childcare and health care costs for children.
UW-Barron County has a Financial Aid Advisor on campus that assists students with their questions regarding Financial Aid. There are also several different scholarships available to students. We offer the Return to Learn Scholarship specifically for Returning Adult Students. This scholarship approximately covers half the cost of a semester’s tuition.
Gaining Confidence in School Work
“I haven’t studied in years.” “I’m out of practice.” “My brain feels rusty.” “I’m not sure I can read, write, or do math well enough to take college courses.” Other concerns include test taking, competing with younger students, and the fear that instructors will not like having an older student in class.
UW-Barron County offers tutorial services for Writing and Math. We have an Academic Assistance Advisor available to provide students with study skills and encouragement towards academic success. We also offer non-degree “refresher” classes in English and Math in addition to a Learning Skills class so students can gain the skills needed to be successful.
Networking with Similar Students
“I feel lost.” “There just does not seem to be anybody my age here on campus.” “You are the only one sitting in the front row.” “You suddenly notice that you are asking more questions than the rest of the class combined.” “You are the first one to class and the last one to leave.” (Chronicle of Higher Education) Adults often begin courses feeling isolated and out of place. (Noel, 1993) Linking up with someone “your age” and with “similar interests” may make you feel that you are not alone.
UW-Barron County has a student organization specifically geared towards the Adult Student, known as ENCORE. This organization provides an opportunity to the Adult Student population to meet and share their experiences as returning students. We also have a separate meeting with all Adult Students at orientation/registration to provide an opportunity for these students to meet and realize they are not alone.
Communicating with Faculty & Administrators
Many Adult Students feel intimidated by faculty and administrators, and are often first generation college students entering the university for the first time. While the Adult Student must keep in mind that some problems cannot be eliminated, talking about those issues with faculty and administrators can help adult students understand the rationale and limitations guiding their decisions. Our faculty and staff find that Adult Students tend to be more motivated and do well because of the life experiences they have had.
Managing Anxiety & Information Overload: 6 Steps
Source: Kansas State, Adult Learner Newsletter, Winter/Spring 1997
One of the biggest decisions for an adult learner is the one to return to school. Once that decision is made, however, a bewildering array of information, assignments, research and new skills await you. The following steps will help you make an easy transition into college life.
Participate in an orientation program
The informative orientation provides you with a great deal of important information, familiarizing you with the campus and its facilities as well as other adult students.
Identify areas of improvement in academics
Getting the English and communication skills classes first will help you succeed throughout you college career. You will be writing papers in almost every class and a strong writing background is key. Utilize our Learning Lab located in room 124 Meggers Hall.
Develop a support system
Friends and family might not share the enthusiasm for your new endeavor nor understand the trauma of a first test or affect academic success. Develop support networks by joining organizations or developing study groups. Meet other adult students through actively seeking out a “study buddy” in each class.
Incorporate your new status as a “student” into family life
Doing homework with children at a designated homework time is a valuable family activity and reinforces the importance of education. Share the events of your day with your significant other so they understand what you are going through and can provide you support during those tough times of the semester (i.e., mid-terms and finals)
Take a reasonable course load your first semester
Spending the entire first semester on the verge of a breakdown is no fun and it can lead to failure. Taking the minimum full-time course load (ie, 12 credits) is advisable for all new students. It allows you some free time and it provides you with a better chance to succeed. If possible, select at least one course in an area of personal interest.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There will be situations in which personal limits are tested: midterm slump, a difficult exam, an unreasonable professor, a boring class, family problems, etc. Faculty, advisors and student services personnel are here to help. Take advantage of the workshops and Study Table that are offered each semester.