Going back to college can be an intimidating decision, especially for an adult learner.
The pathway for an adult learner is often filled with fear of the unknown – Will I be able to afford this? How much time will it take, and will it be convenient? Will I receive enough support?
As an adult learner, life priorities are certainly different compared to that of a traditional 18-year-old student. Life is more chaotic with balancing full-time jobs, families and everyday life expenses, so when it comes to going back to school, the thought can be more stressful than exciting.
As a graduate of NC Wesleyan College’s Adult Studies Program, I spent a large amount of time deciding what program would fit my lifestyle best. When researching my options, one of my biggest fears was whether I would be able to afford the costs involved with continuing my education.
Through this exploration, I discovered there are many different avenues available to students who need assistance in paying for their education. These options include Federal and State aid, institutional assistance, scholarships, employer funding, and more.
The main form of aid that students apply for is Federal financial aid, and students are able to request this aid by completing the FAFSA application. This path enables students to see whether they will qualify for Federal loans or Federal Pell grants (grants differ from loans because they do not have to be paid back).
In some cases, students do not qualify for Federal aid but are able to tap into other resources. Many institutions are able to offer internal scholarships and discounts, as well as flexible payment plan options to help students successfully pay any out-of-pocket costs. Learning there are many options in gaining financial assistance helps provide adult students with the knowledge that higher education is financially within reach.
As the Assistant Director of Admissions at NC Wesleyan College, I am in constant contact with adult students and have access to learn more about the major fears they have about continuing their education. Often, they mention apprehension about time and convenience.
To maintain a competitive edge, colleges are continuously changing and creating accelerated and accessible programs. There are more programs offered in accelerated formats, with seated, online or hybrid courses, which allow students to complete a degree in a shorter amount of time. Accelerated and online degree options are most appealing for adult students, because they are able to continue their education while maintaining their personal and professional lives.
Will the faculty understand I am returning to school, not as a traditional student but as an adult student?
Will my advisor spend adequate time explaining and guiding me to complete the best academic path?
Will I be able to succeed alongside my peers?
As adult students move forward in their college search, another concern that arises is whether they will receive enough support. So, it is common to be fearful of an institution’s support system. According to the Association of American Colleges & Universities, “Increasingly, higher education institutions have attempted to create programs and services that are responsive to adults’ life and learning preferences. This effort has challenged college faculty and administrators to think beyond traditional ways of teaching and delivering educational programs.”
Fortunately, with the ever-changing culture of higher education, there are more options focused on adult students, which provide adequate help and support based on their specific needs.
The fears of returning to college as an adult learner can be overwhelming but to help diminish these fears, students can take comfort in knowing they are not alone. There are many options and resources available to create an exciting and exceptional experience.
Dani is the Assistant Director of Admissions for North Carolina Wesleyan College’s Adult & Professional Studies. She started her career with NC Wesleyan College in 2016. NCWC offers students the ability to obtain their degree in an affordable and conveniently formatted program. Please visit www.ncwc.edu/BelieveNow or email [email protected] for more information.
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