As summer enters its final phase, the trees begin to brighten with new colour, the air becomes as crisp as an apple and we pull the sweaters out of the closet. It’s time to prepare the lunches, fill the knapsacks with pencils and paper, and get ready for a new year. But, who is this preparation for? What if the student is you?
With the arrival of a new school year comes a feeling of new beginnings; it is a clean slate, a chance to start over. It used to be that the anticipation, excitement and even fear of starting school again was reserved for the young, as the “traditional” idea of student was someone who is either a child, teen or a young adult in the range of 18-22 years old who is embarking upon a 4-year post-secondary school program. Times have certainly changed, and we have come into a new age where a student cannot be defined by age, and the format of their education no longer adheres to the old standard. Adult education has become so popular that “traditional” students no longer represent the majority, and classrooms are now routinely filled with people of varying ages, erasing old stereotypes and opening up possibilities for everyone, whether in a university setting, or in a private career college.
While entering a classroom for the first time in years can be very intimidating for adult learners, as we have already noted, the landscape has changed dramatically, and so has the general view of older students. The older student is generally more motivated to succeed, and they tend to view their education as a privilege as well as a means to an end. Education means opportunity, higher pay and work that is challenging in a positive way. With this understanding, returning to College has more weight to it than it used to, and the outcome is something the student spends more time planning for.
In order to ensure success, the student needs to consider some key points:
1) Throw away thoughts like “I’m not good at that”, or, “I’ve never been able to understand this”, because this is a limit you set on yourself, and often that limit is without merit. Perhaps you have had to work harder to understand certain subjects, but often students base their perceptions of their learning style on their academic performance many years before. Who we are now is not who we were then, and there could have been many variables that impacted learning when we were younger, ranging from uninspiring teaching to personal issues to general immaturity and lack of focus. As adults, we have the benefit of personal experience, and it is this experience which gives us the perspective we need to identify what we want to do, and how to do it.
2) Discomfort is good! – While this may seem like an unusual statement, the key is that discomfort often means “new”, and students are in the business of taking on new concepts and ideas. If you already know it, why would you need to learn it? Discomfort forces you to pay attention, which reinforces key teachings and allows the student to develop concrete understanding.
3) Manage test anxiety – It’s absolutely normal to be nervous about taking exams, especially if it’s been years since you took the last one. There are many tips out there to help you adjust to a testing environment, but the main ones always hold true: prepare, take a deep breath and think positive. If you have done the work, asked the questions you needed to along the way, and let yourself relax, you will surely be surprised by how well you do.
4) Manage your time effectively – Your courses will have deadlines, and with good reason. Success in any job likely depends in part on how quickly and efficiently you complete your assigned tasks. It is never a good idea to put off your work until the last minute, because it shows. Determine when you need to have your course completed and develop short-term goals to help you reach that date. Treat your education as though it’s your job, because in a way, it is!
With determination and a clear focus, we re-enter our education with a renewed sense of purpose, enthusiasm and determination to meet our goals. Going back to College is daunting, but it’s also exciting, because it gives you new knowledge as well as reshapes the way you think.
There is no limit to what you can learn, no date of expiry on the knowledge you have, and no age when the learning is done. Keep this mind when you walk through the door and take your desk.
College is now in session.