Pointers for adults returning to school

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Today’s seniors, particularly those who already have passed retirement age, may find themselves with many free hours to fill now that a job no longer accounts for most of their time. Returning to school may help seniors realize lifelong dreams of finishing a degree, exploring a hobby, getting educated to gain work in a new field, or just to fill some time in a productive way.

Information from the United States Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics finds the demand for continuing education is still growing. For those aged 35 and older, the center says adult enrollment should grow by at least another 7 percent through 2016.

It’s possible to return to school at any age. Adults looking at continuing education possibilities can heed these easy tips to make stepping into a classroom again successful.

• Get some help. Some time may have passed since you last toted textbooks or entered a classroom setting. Things have changed since you last were in school. Sit down with a guidance counselor or a career advisor and go over your schooling goals to plot out a degree map. This will help you determine which courses to take or what schools will best fit your needs.

• Research schooling options. According to the National Survey of Students in Continuing Education, adult learners prefer post-secondary education that is affordable and close to home. Recognize that many schools now offer online learning, which may be ideal for you if you prefer to learn from the comfort of home. Decide what is important to you in a school, then narrow down your prospects.

• Schedule a campus visit. Tour the campus to get a feel for the school environment. Visit with someone in student services or attend an event for adult learners so you will know what the admissions process entails.

• Get financial assistance. Scholarships, grants and other financial aid are not just for young students. You may be eligible for financial help. Speak with a financial aid advisor to determine your eligibility for programs.

• Decide enrollment status. Do you want to go to school full time or part time or do you want to take classes here and there? Knowing in advance will help you develop the right schedule.

• Take a few refresher courses. Rather than delve into the tough stuff right away, enroll in a few basic classes to ease yourself back into the academic environment. Then next semester you can increase the difficulty level and workload.

• Be prepared for homework and study. You may have grown accustomed to being only accountable to yourself as of late. Once in school you will have assignments and tests. Plan for study time and develop a schedule to allow for school commitments.

• Take it slow. There’s no race to the finish line. Going back to school is your decision, and you can go at your own pace.

Adult students return to the classroom for many reasons. Involve family in the decision to continue education and embrace the positive changes that are in store.

— Metro Creative