Returning to a classroom after a prolonged absence from formal education can be overwhelming and daunting. According to Peter Russo – recipient of the 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year Award presented by the East Baton Rouge Parish – furthering your studies at a post-secondary institution should never be a cause for panic, regardless of how long it has been since your previous schooling. Thankfully, Peter Russo has shared his best advice and tips for returning to education as a mature student.
1. Adjust Your Learning Habits
Returning to the academic world will require trial and error, self-reflection and adjustments. Peter Russo explains that recent technological advancements, a deeper understanding of teaching strategies, and changes in curriculum are responsible for a newly revolutionized approach to education and the way students learn. As a result of this transformation, many mature students will need to adjust their previous learning styles to adhere to the modern classroom, this will require students to discover the most effective learning strategies for them. Peter Russo further adds that you must embrace change and approach the classroom with an open mind or else you will risk falling behind.
Try to research learning styles and personality tests to help you determine the style you are best suited for. Please remember that this will not be an overnight transition and will require patience, be kind to yourself and approach this slowly.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
Prior to attending your first semester, you must take the time to reflect upon your motivations and performance expectations in order to set realistic goals for yourself. As a previously high achieving student, setting realistic goals may present a challenge. Remember that changes in the educational industry have affected every aspect of learning, it will take time to adjust to the modern education system.
If you are the anomaly in your program, do not use your fellow classmates as a benchmark for success. Students that are attending post-secondary institutions straight from high school will have the advantage of being exposed to modern research and teaching techniques, as well as the advantage of having freshly learned knowledge that you may not have thought about in a decade. Setting realistic expectations is not a one-time exercise, Peter Russo states that you must regularly adjust your expectations to accommodate your learning process.
3. Picking The Proper Program
Mature students are often tasked with the burden of supporting a life outside of academics. Younger students often have significantly more free-time and less serious responsibilities, such as supporting a family or career.
Explore your program options and register for classes as early as possible to ensure that you will be able to attend necessary commitments outside of school. Do not stack your schedule too tightly, you must balance your responsibilities and coursework properly to ensure that you have enough time allocated to each.
Choosing the proper program is difficult, but Peter Russo suggests that you align your program with your motivations for returning to school. If you are seeking a specific career path, ensure that this career is feasible to attain upon completing your program. Picking the program that aligns with your motivations and schedule is a critical step for success when returning to school.
4. Support Systems
Most colleges and universities have resources available to help their students succeed. Your tuition is in part paying to keep these resources afloat, and it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to put those resources to use. These services exist for a reason, don’t let fear or your ego stop you from reaching out for help.
Additionally, Peter Russo emphasises that support doesn’t need to be limited to academic support. There are other services available, such as personal counseling and financial advising to help you manage your responsibilities.
As a mature student, you may be in a situation where you need to handle many responsibilities – a family, financial issues – that young students don’t always have, and these resources can be used to make a significant difference
5. Time Management
Time will be either your ultimate resource, or your greatest downfall. Peter Russo claims that finding ways to efficiently track your time, will be crucial in order to set yourself up for success.
Effective time management strategies include:
- Detailed schedules or planners
- Limit procrastination
- Prioritizing tasks
Do not underestimate the time required to complete a task or project, always attempt to schedule more time than needed. Remember to take advantage of small stretches of time such as, the time between classes or during your child’s nap.
You have conducted your research, developed your plan, and reflected upon your motivations and expectations, now it is time to take the final leap and enroll. It may take longer than anticipated to become comfortable with the classroom again, but this should not deter you from attending school. Do not be afraid to try something new, put yourself out there and get the education you have always wanted.
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