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School after 40- Returning to class as a working professional

Student in cafe

Education is empowering no matter your age, but going back to school as a working adult comes with a unique set of challenges. For adults in their forties and beyond, returning to class often means balancing the demands of work and family along with navigating new technology. For many, going back to school also means jumping back into the educational system after a long absence.

So exactly why are people returning to the classroom in spite of so many obstacles? While the decision is prompted by personal circumstances and goals, there are some common motivators such as career enhancement and improved earning potential.

Fortunately for those interested in using education to earn more, there is a strong connection between earnings and level of education. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states:

"Median weekly earnings in 2018 for those with the highest levels of educational attainment—doctoral and professional degrees—were more than triple those with the lowest level, less than a high school diploma.” (Read more)

As you can see, continued education is a viable option for working adults looking to shift their life in a new direction. Going back to school as someone with an established career and family, however, requires a different plan of action to be successful.

Student Success Tips for Adult Learners

The following tips can help working professionals find success in the classroom without putting their life on hold.   

Tell your friends and family

There is no way around it, going back to school requires you to make a time commitment. As a student, you’ll have to find time to study, read course materials and write assignments. At the graduate level you can expect the demands to be higher, and you’ll need to add research to your list of responsibilities. This added work means that you’re probably going to be less available for outings with friends and family.

Letting everyone know about your decision to return to school will help them understand why you have less free time. It can also limit disappointment when you have to turn down an invitation. By including your friends and family in your journey, you’re also likely to find an instant network of support and encouragement.

Get organized by creating a master plan

Life can get fairly hectic when you have to balance work schedules, family activities and doctor appointments. When you think about adding coursework to the mix, it may seem nearly impossible. The good news is that you can organize yourself, including your work and family schedules, in a way that allows you to have a clear picture of your obligations.

To create a holistic view of everything going on in your life, organize all of your activities in a single location. Start by getting a day planner and use it for all areas of your life, from family outings and work schedules to coursework deadlines. By keeping all of your responsibilities and obligations in the same place you’ll be able to more effectively prioritize your to-do list.

Make an appointment to study

To be successful as a student, you’ll have to dedicate time toward your coursework. Even under the best of circumstances, this can be difficult. When you consider your current schedule, however, it might seem like going back to school is out of reach. It is also easy to let other obligations get in the way, stealing your study time and your ability to thrive in your degree program.

Fortunately, if you are dedicated to your goal, you can absolutely make time for your coursework. One way of doing this is to treat your study time like an official appointment, no different than a doctor’s appointment.  Write it into your day planner, schedule other appointments around and stick to it.

Make life easier on yourself

Home cooked meals, perfectly clean houses and manicured lawns are great, but they aren’t always necessary. They are, however time consuming. By looking for ways to create efficiency in your life, delegating tasks and giving yourself some leeway, you can free up time and reduce stress.

Your life and circumstances are unique, so only you know areas of opportunity when it comes to delegating. However, you may be able to enlist the help of your family to free up time for your studies. For instance, family members can help by taking turns making dinner or you could dedicate one night a week to ordering in. You should also give yourself a break on things like housekeeping and yard work. It is okay if the laundry isn’t folded and a few dishes are in the sink, you have a degree to earn!

Going back to school isn’t easy at any age, but there are special challenges to returning as an adult with a family and career. One of the most important things you can do is remind yourself about why you decided to earn your degree. This single action will keep you focused on the goal and prevent you from being side tracked on your way to graduation.