Back to School Considerations for Adult Learners

School — perhaps, even college — is nothing new to many adult learners. They're likely to have been there, done some of it, and want to return to complete a degree, credential, or lifelong dream.

Adult learners, sometimes referred to as ­nontraditional students, typically return to school with a particular goal in mind, which often makes them more focused and dedicated than their younger, more traditional student counterparts. Life circumstances for such students, however, often make attending school difficult. For example, financial or family considerations may create obstacles to learning.

If you are 24 years of age or older; are a veteran of the armed services; are returning to school after four or more years of employment, homemaking, or another activity; or assume multiple roles in addition to that of student, such as parent, spouse, employee, then you fit within the definition of an adult learner.

If you are one such student, you'll want to take particular care in choosing the undergraduate program that's right for you. In particular, you should consider the following:

  • Does the school offer day-care services?

  • Does the institution provide housing for older students? Does it accommodate families?

  • Does the academic program grant credits for life or work experience?

  • Does the school offer support services or groups to help you connect with other students like you?

  • Does the college or university offer counseling services for adult learners to help them transition into student life?

  • Does the school offer a special orientation series geared toward adult learners?

  • Do the educational programs offer financial aid for nontraditional students?

  • Does the school allow for flexible scheduling to better enable you to fulfill your work, home, and school responsibilities?

Doing your homework as an adult learner begins before you enter the classroom. You'll want to know what to expect as you make the important decision to return to college studies — and what your educational institution is equipped to provide to its nontraditional students.