If you’ve made the choice to return to school, congratulations! It’s an especially praiseworthy decision for those who might be considered “nontraditional,” as you might have more constraints on your time, life and energy. In order to keep the process as seamless and streamlined as possible, consider some of these tips when you make the decision to return to higher education.

Be selective

Most college and university programs are designed with a traditional approach in mind, that is, a student recently graduated from high school attending a four-year degree program with little to no other commitments.

However, students who return to college some at a later time might find the mid-morning classes inconvenient for their schedule. Perhaps the administration simply doesn’t understand the needs of a nontraditional student versus a traditional student. In order to avoid unnecessary frustrations and hiccups, take the time to research and select a school tailored to meet your scheduling, academic and lifestyle needs.

Ask about applicable credit

Some college programs are designed with nontraditional students in mind, allowing the college to offer credit for things like past courses at other universities, learning placement exams and even skills learned on the job. Inquire about a prior-learning assessment to get as far ahead as possible credit-wise and save time in the long run.

Refresh your memory

It would be beneficial to brush up on field-related concepts and skills before stepping into a full-fledged class. If it’s been many years since you’ve written an essay, refresh your writing skills; try your hand out at algebra problems; get your brain thinking academically again by perusing scholarly articles in your area of study. 

In addition, familiarize yourself with the online platform used by the school. Work with administration to get your student account set up online and use time in your day to explore the nooks and crannies of the student portal.

See if your employer will help

No matter when you attend, college can be expensive. The good news, however, is that some employers will pay for further education. If you work for a company that includes financial assistance for returning to school, take advantage of this benefit! Talk to your employer or HR department to learn more about how much they cover or other financial aid benefits you might reap from your workplace.

Come up with a plan

If you work a full time job, have a family or anything else routinely demanding time from you, it’s as vital as ever to get into a schedule. Talk with your family about who is going to pick up the extra tasks when you’re at class; perhaps some nights you’ll have to switch off making dinner with your spouse. If you work full time, scheduling in homework will be imperative for turning in assignments on time, completing all required reading and being as prepared for exams as possible. 

Get to know the people around you

It doesn’t matter if your classmates are younger than you – all of you are there for the same reason. Engage with them in the class, and even outside of class during study groups and group projects. Talk with them about assignments, tests and lectures. If you can’t figure out how to access something in the student portal or are unsure how to navigate a powerpoint, ask a classmate. It will create an atmosphere of camaraderie and equality, as well as support for when you need it most.

As an adult, it’s possible you’re closer in age to your professor than classmates. This can make your professor much more approachable than when you’re fresh out of high school. Building a relationship with your professor is important for when you need additional help with class material, or when you simply need professional advice.

When the going gets tough 

No matter how much you love your area of study, your classes or your professors, it can be hard to stay motivated at times. A lower grade than anticipated, an overfull week due to assignments, and the combination of work, play and family responsibilities can negatively impact your outlook. When these moments pop up, try to recall why you started the journey in the first place. 

Perhaps you never got to experience college as a young person, but are determined to finish your education. Maybe you simply want a change of career, and this degree will put you in good standing to achieve that dream. Even if you simply wanted to take classes just to learn something new, remind yourself of your initial motivation and your end goal. Picturing where the hard work is taking you can clear your vision and give you newfound determination to struggle through the hard parts.

Additional support for life’s challenges

Returning to school is a big life change. It might be overwhelming at times, but it’s important to remember the avenues of help and support available to you during this exciting time. Whether you reach out to family and friends, classmates, professors, the school administration or even someone who can help you handle any substance use issues, it’s important that you involve others in your decisions. If you’re looking to overcome addiction hurdles before diving back into secondary education, Real Recovery’s sober living facilities can help, offering treatment, nature therapy, and other modalities to help you live the life you deserve, free from substance use habits.

Call Real Recovery today at 1-855-363-7325 today, or reach out online, for more information.