Plan ahead! Review the college catalog for all relevant information. Make a visit to campus to familiarize yourself with the layout, student affairs offices, financial counselor, library, cafeteria, admissions personnel, and other helpful departments.
Get wired! Make sure you have access to email and the internet. This will give you easy access to many library databases and allow you to do online research. You will also be able to communicate quickly with professors and other students and may be able to send assignments by email if you can’t attend class.
Know your time frame! Map out your schedule for completing your degree to help yourself set realistic goals and budget your time efficiently. Part-time students usually take a longer time to meet their degree requirements. Make sure your work schedule can accommodate your class schedule. Also, consider the time needed for study and rest.
Talk with your family or support system about the upcoming changes and discuss how others may be able to assist you in meeting these social obligations.
You’re In!!! Now what?
Begin with classes you feel confident about. Don’t feel that you have to tackle the most challenging subjects first. Sometimes the easier courses may help you adjust better, and give you a sense of accomplishment from passing them with higher grades. This will build your confidence and prepare you for the more difficult courses.
Try online classes. This may give you a more flexible schedule, save you a commute and allow you to work around job and family obligations. Some online classes may be more tedious than coming to class, so ask questions about the requirements before enrolling.
Consider taking summer classes, but schedule carefully. Most summer semesters are compressed, so it’s wise to take fewer classes than you would in a typical term.
Know your drop deadlines and book return policies. Many schools will not refund your tuition or will refund only a percentage if you drop a course more than one or two weeks into the term and many bookstores will not accept returns after a certain date.
Don’t be afraid to meet and get to know other students – even the ‘youngsters.’ Walk the yard or spend some time in King Frazier Student Center.
Use faculty office hours! Take time to get to know all your teachers, get a feel for who they are and what they expect, and let them get to know about you and your interests also.
Give yourself plenty of time to complete assignments. Most teachers will hand out a course syllabus at the beginning of the semester so students will know what to expect; so try to start projects and special assignments early.
Look for departments or organizations designed specifically for older students. At SSU we have a number of various student organizations and one organization called the Non-traditional Student Association. Participation in these may provide you with information, support, and the ability to experience mutual aid from the sharing of like experiences.
Finally, allow yourself room to be human! Don’t try to be something you’re not. Many older students try too hard to fit in, joining social clubs and hanging out with the younger students all of the time. You don’t have to do this unless it’s something you really want to do. If you want to do it, that’s fine. But you don’t have to pretend to be “one of the kids.” You have a lot to offer by being yourself. Many students will look up to you, admiring your initiative and zeal for balancing career, education, and family. Many others will simply look past you because you don’t ‘fit in’, but that’s okay too.