Tips for Returning Adult Students

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Changing careers in today’s economy can mean returning to college to gain new skills for the evolving marketplace. Community colleges are often the first place career changers turn for assistance.

SFCC staff and faculty regularly reach out to returning adult students with reassuring advice to help them comfortably return to the classroom.

“Nontraditional students bring motivation and maturity to the classroom,” says
Dr. Joanna Anderson, president of State Fair Community College. “They are often not afraid to ask questions or seek an instructor’s help. Coming back to school is a big decision, but it’s one that comes with great rewards.”

For Diana O’Connor, Sedalia, finishing the degree she started 30 years ago is a personal achievement. “My experience with SFCC has continued on and off for 30 years,” says O’Connor. “What I appreciate most is that SFCC has always been there every time I was ready to come back and take a class.”

Here are a few tips for adults getting ready to return to the classroom.

Consult with SFCC advisors to review your goals and plan a course of study. They will help you determine if past college credentials or work experience can apply toward your goal. For O’Connor, the turning point was a conversation with an SFCC advisor. “He took the time to go through all of my credits and told me that I only had six classes left to earn a degree,” she says. “He said, ‘You can do this.’ I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I was determined to finish what I started so many years ago.” O’Connor will graduate in May with an associate degree in business and also hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Expect to see students with similar goals in class. You are not alone in considering college after working for several years. SFCC’s average student age is 25, and many students attend part-time because they work or have families.

Scan the employment environment and know your marketability. Capitalize on current areas of need.

Do something you love. Selecting something you truly are interested in is intrinsically rewarding.

Ensure a good fit. Investigate the requirements for your career choice and see if it fits your interests, abilities and needs. If changing career fields, identify the transferable skills you already possess.

Have a support system in place. Identify whom you can count on for moral support. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Assess yourself academically. Depending on your length of absence from college and the course you plan to study, you need to reassess your skills via placement testing. Don’t let this stop you; SFCC offers classes at all levels.

Consider financial aid and explore scholarship opportunities. The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) available at Don’t miss out on valuable scholarship opportunities.

Consider online classes. If you are concerned about returning to a traditional classroom environment or are worried your schedule cannot accommodate going back to school, consider online classes. This flexible learning approach offers advantages for busy schedules. SFCC offers more than 240 online classes each semester. Because she’s married, has a family and works full-time, O’Connor prefers online classes. “They have given me the opportunity to continue my education but not miss out on my family and their activities.”

  Realize how much you already know. The prior experience and knowledge you bring as a returning adult student will benefit your college experience as well as that of your classmates.



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