Strategies to help adult learners reach their goals

Earning a college degree is a challenge for any student, but it can be particularly difficult for adults.

Earning a college degree is a challenge for any student, but it can be particularly difficult for adults. Those who go back to school later in life regularly have to juggle course work with full-time jobs and families, leading to strain on their time and resources.

A 2016 report published by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that of adults older than 24 who enrolled in college for the first time, less than 41 percent completed their programs within six years, and of those enrolled part time, the rate dropped to 28 percent.

The fact that less than one-half to one-third of students who returned to school as adults earned their degrees within the observed time frame is troubling when considering the investments of time and money that many students and their families make in education.

“Adult learners often come back to school after being out for a long time, and there is an initial insecurity over whether they’ll be able to complete the program,” says Dr. Pressley Rankin IV, academic program director of the Master of Education in Adult Education and associate professor at City University of Seattle. “Students should understand that there will be a learning curve, but it’s shorter than they may think, and they need to be patient with themselves.”

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While it can be difficult for students to take the leap to get started, the harder part is actually completing the program. For adults who are considering going back to school to finish a degree or earn a new one, preparation for study is something they should consider.

“The fact is, adult learners are usually better students than traditionally aged students since they’re often already very experienced in their fields,” says Rankin. “One of the biggest strategies for success is communication. I tell students to talk to their professors to make sure they understand the requirements.”

Given the resources required to earn a degree, another factor students should consider is how well their intended program and school equips them for success.

“Students should look for degree programs that are accredited and align with their career goals,” says Rankin. “They should look at what degree or skills are required for the position they’re seeking, and see whether the…

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