This nontraditional student survival guide is designed to provide tips and ideas for doing well in continuing educational activities, while dealing with life’s complex issues. The focal point of this information is on succeeding in class, while balancing work and life. Why is this important? Academic success for adult learners is heavily influenced by these factors.
Nontraditional students are enrolling in continuing education programs in record numbers as they seek to improve their professional career, retrain for a new career, or pursue lifelong learning goals. Unlike many of their more traditional student counterparts (age 23 and under), they are more driven to do well and be successful. This inner drive sometimes leads to self-imposed stresses, which causes a feeling of being overwhelmed.
Overwhelming stress is one of the leading causes why many nontraditional students drop out of continuing education programs. Managing stress is vital and begins with recognizing the signs of stress before they become overwhelming.
Signs of stress in adult learners are often observable through irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, tension, and indigestion. These stress indicators are often a result of trying to be perfect at everything – work, family, and school.
Being realistic is frequently a cure for this stress. It is impossible to make every assignment letter perfect or get an A on every test. Focus on the big picture! The big picture is achieving an educational goal; avoid stressing over assignments or readings which have minimal consequences.
Stress is also induced by family requirements. This can be alleviated by keeping family members informed of school requirements. It is important for everyone to know where they fit within your educational goals. Making time for them is essential; however, they need to understand why missing an occasional family commitment is necessary.
According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress Survey, stress leads to emotional and physical health problems, along with a decline in productivity. This is why planning for success and the following tips are important for academic, work, and family success.
First and foremost – get enough sleep, exercise, eat well, and make time for yourself. All work and no play is the road to overwhelming stress. Following these four basic tips will provide more energy and focus for dealing with other stresses.
The following are more specific tips which help avoid stresses caused by work, family, and education.
Volunteer on campus or within the community to share personal experiences or professional knowledge.
Take time for or begin a hobby. This will help clear the mind of problems and make time for yourself.
Creating a blog is another tip. Begin a blog related to a hobby or interest using Blogger and WordPress, which are both free. This venue provides opportunities to share experiences and ideas.
Walking or running is another way to relieve stress. This not only provides a change of scenery, it also helps you stay healthy.
Make a list of things which must be accomplished during a school term for work, family, and school. Then prioritize the list. Now you know where the priorities lie and what will have a minimal impact on the big picture.
The following are things nontraditional students must do to ensure academic success, because continuing education is important. Attending every class is essential for success, regardless of a going to a classroom or learning online. Making excuses for missing class is easy and following into this trap typically leads to incomplete assignments, poor grades, and eventually dropping out of school.
Arriving a little early for class has its benefits for nontraditional students. This brings opportunities to meet and share with other students feeling the same pressures, along with getting to know traditional students. The benefits include sharing stories about dealing with things which cause stress, creating study groups, sharing prior knowledge and experiences related to the class, and creating a personal learning network.
Allow enough time to complete assignments. College instructors provide a course syllabus at the beginning of each term. Read it carefully and note special assignments or projects, tests, and exams. Start special assignments and projects as soon as practical and never wait until the night before to study for tests and exams. The life of a nontraditional student is influenced by situations which are out of their control.
Participate as much as possible in study groups. These groups may mean the difference between success and failure. This learning strategy also helps remove the feeling of learning in isolation, which many nontraditional students experience. Isolation can lead to unnecessary stress and a feeling of being overwhelmed by school, work, and family.
This nontraditional student survival guide and other tips for nontraditional students provide adult learners with strategies for keeping school, work, and family in perspective. Developing the ability to balance these requirements leads to emotional and physical well-being. Also, thinking of continuing education as another of life’s chapters ensures it does not become your entire life.