Facing Your Fears as an Adult Returning to School

In case you haven’t noticed, vocational colleges are no longer just there to learn a trade. Today, colleges can help you earn a bachelor’s, master’s, or even doctorate in just about any field of study, or they can even help you brush up on skills you may already have on the path to earning a certification or associate’s degree . So, while some trade schools may still specialize in trades like body repair, bricklaying, or hairstyling, most trade schools today are geared towards helping working professionals achieve their career goals.

Encouraged by an inviting and growing choice of professional and online colleges, more adults than ever are returning to school. Whether you’re advancing your current career and education, entering an entirely new field, or just keen to study something you’ve always wanted, going back to school can be enjoyable and rewarding.

Still, many prospective students who could clearly benefit from enrolling in a vocational college are reluctant to do so. The reason? In too many cases they are held back by nothing but their own fear.

The first step is to admit it

Let’s start by putting everything on the table. Some caveats commonly heard from working adults considering returning to college are that:

You won’t fit in

It is too expensive

The day does not have enough time

Studying takes forever

Employers will not view the degree (or certification) as credible

The coursework will not be valuable or useful

In reality, almost any student who has attended vocational college – whether online or on campus – will tell you that there really is nothing to worry about when you return to school. While they may have once had the same fears as you do now, they quickly learned that those fears were actually unfounded.

By taking each fear individually, we can begin to understand what these current students now know and how glad they are that they didn’t let their fears hold them back.

I’m afraid I don’t fit in

It’s common for a person in their 30s or 40s to worry that they’ll stick out like a sore thumb in a classroom full of “kids” ages 18-25. However, recent information comes from the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education states that adult students are the fastest growing educational demographic, showing that 40% of college students are now 25 years of age or older. Additional information from the National Center for Education Statistics indicates that the number of students ages 35 and older has increased from 823,000 in 1970 to almost 3 million in 2001.

If you’re still concerned about fitting into the classroom as an adult, a few facts may help allay your concerns:

With online learning, you work more individually and don’t have to worry about standing out in a physical classroom.

Many colleges, traditional or not, have seen an increase in their ‘older’ students and it’s likely you won’t be the small minority you’re expecting; and

Many older adults actually find it rejuvenating and refreshing to be in a classroom environment with a younger group eager to learn.

I fear it will be too expensive

Tuition… books… it all adds up. And many prospective students are put off by the investment required to graduate. But the key to overcoming this fear is to think of it as just that: an investment in your future. Think long-term instead of short-term. In almost all cases, the up-front costs for attending school are easily offset by professional advancement after graduation. Also, many colleges — especially the online universities — can be cheaper than you think. Do your homework and weigh the long-term benefits before deciding against enrolling in a school for this reason.

I’m afraid it will take too much time

For the busy working adult, the idea of ​​taking on extra responsibilities can be downright overwhelming. Balancing work and personal life isn’t always easy, and adding school on top of all your other responsibilities seems virtually impossible.

And yet it is not. You’ll be amazed at how much extra time you can squeeze into a day. Sure, you’ll have to make some sacrifices, but if you simply try to watch a little less TV or let your friends know you can’t have a BBQ next weekend, you’ll be amazed at how much time you can free up. Just remember to keep the price in mind and your sacrifices will all be worth it.

A good option for students who are struggling to commit to a schedule is to enroll in online “asynchronous” classes. The asynchronous learning model works a bit like email in that you can access coursework, teacher’s lessons, and classmates’ comments at your leisure, and then reply whenever you can. There are no set classes you need to take, no specific schedules to interfere with the rest of your day, and since you take classes online, you don’t have to worry about commute time.

I’m afraid it will take forever to finish my studies

Traditionally, a bachelor’s degree takes up to four years, a master’s degree at least two years, and a doctorate degree can take up to eight years or more. That’s all fine and dandy for someone who can commit to full-time study, but for those who can only commit to part-time status, those schedules seem too off the horizon.

The fact of the matter is, most courses at today’s colleges are based on accelerated learning, which means that most degrees take less time to complete than traditional learning environments. Coursework is based on shorter semesters – typically five weeks – delivering quality education as quickly as possible without sacrificing the student’s ability to learn and absorb the material. In some cases, you can even earn your degree in less than a year!

I’m afraid that employers won’t take my degree seriously

Because their degree doesn’t come from a top-tier university like Harvard or Yale, some prospective students decide it’s not worth pursuing a degree from a school that employers don’t see as credible.

In reality, however, most employers today view college degrees not only as credible, but often on a par with their more traditional counterparts. It wasn’t all that long ago that many HR professionals viewed career colleges — particularly online career colleges — as less important than traditional colleges, but as the online educational space evolves, faculty members and curriculum at online schools catching up in traditional schools, more HR leaders are recognizing the validity of degrees earned online or through colleges. In fact, for some, an online degree represents a certain level of career aspiration, technological ability, and a commitment to seeing something through to the end on behalf of the candidate.

I’m afraid I won’t learn anything new or valuable

Many prospective students are afraid that their efforts to get their degree will be in vain – that the classes will not teach them anything they have not already learned in their professional experience.

However, as anyone who has taken even a single course at a trade college or online school will tell you, this perception couldn’t be further from the truth. Classes at each accredited university are taught by qualified experts with vast experience in their respective fields, while you are also surrounded by classmates who bring their own unique experiences to the table. Whether the “classroom” is physical or virtual, you will learn more from those around you than you ever imagined.

Another point to consider is that most vocational colleges focus on a team learning approach, where students learn not only from their teachers but from other students as well. With this approach, you engage in dialogues with other students who have much to share from their own work experiences, and you gain valuable lessons that you can take back and immediately apply to your own work.

Why take the step?

In today’s modern learning environment, with numerous career and online schools focused on their educational needs, adults have nothing to fear by returning to school – and so much to gain. Here are some of the top reasons why more adults than ever are returning to school:

Career advancement or transition. If you’re not currently working in your dream job, nothing can change that faster than an advanced degree and additional know-how.

To graduate from years ago. Many freshman students drop out of college before graduating, and returning to college is an extremely gratifying way to take care of those unfinished business.

To set an example for their children. What better way to encourage your growing kids to get a college education than to get one of your own?

To fully prepare to run your own business. Whether you are interested in opening a B&B or your own accounting firm, the perfect college program is available online or on campus.

Going back to school is a big step, but it shouldn’t be an overwhelming one. For those who plan the move properly and aim to get the best out of life, it may be the best decision they will ever make.

Thanks to Matt McAllister | #Facing #Fears #Adult #Returning #School

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