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Adults Returning to College



Years ago there were very few adults returning to college. In the last several years more adults are deciding to return to school. They are often called "non-traditional students." If you are thinking of returning to college, this article is a must read.

In today’s world, it has become far less unusual for adults to return to college, so much so that the name “non-traditional student” has become a common descriptor of this phenomenon. Many colleges have developed a range of specific programs to assist and encourage this adult population in their renewed educational efforts. To understand some of the possibilities available, keep reading.

Ways in Which Adults Return to College

It used to be that returning to college meant trying to find a way to fit into a regime that was primarily, if not completely, organized for just-out-of-highschool undergraduates. This is no longer the case. Here are some of the types of college experience now open to returning adults:

  •  Employer-sponsored training programs
  • Specific adult education programs
  • Auditing courses
  • Summer classes
  • Intercession classes
  • Online classes
  • Instructional Television (ITV) classes
  • Night classes,

 and the regular

  • Day classes

Where Can Adults Return to College?

If face-to-face encounters in a class with an instructor and other students is what you’re after, there are several choices available to you:

Community Colleges

While virtually every college and university now has avenues and support for adults returning to college, community colleges are specially geared to help ease adults back into the learning scene. There are some 1,195 community colleges in the United States, and some of those have several branches. They serve 11.5 million students, more than half of whom are taking classes for credit.

Community colleges offer several advantages to adults returning to college:

  • Since adults returning to college are their primary, not secondary, audience, their scheduling is built for people who work and take classes on the side�"a situation many adults returning to college find themselves in.
  • Community colleges are local and designed to be readily accessible from outside. Unlike colleges, designed to gather an undergraduate class from across the country, and even across the globe, and bring them together in a few square miles, community colleges are designed for people to easily come from wherever they are, by car, bus, train, or on foot.
  • The price is right: community colleges chare less per credit hour than do colleges and universities, and if their course offerings meet your needs, you can achieve a degree for far less cost.

Colleges and Universities

Even with a primary focus on degree programs for undergraduates who have recently graduated from high school, universities and colleges often welcome adults returning to college. Several options are often available:

  • Enroll as a non-traditional undergraduate. If your situation allows it, you can return to college as a full-time student, and it’s likely that nobody will raise an eyebrow, no matter what your age.
  • Enroll part-time and adjust your course schedule to fit other obligations, such as work and taking care of children.
  • Accomplish your goals through summer and intercession classes. The college’s admissions office and guidance can help you determine if this choice will meet your needs.

Distance Learning for Adults Returning to College

If you are comfortable in an online environment, and the course of study you wish to undertake is one that can be well taught in an online environment, you may wish to consider distance learning. Distance learning courses may be offered by your local community college or the college or university you are interested in attending. Courses may be presented through ITV; Blackboard, an academic suite to provide online instruction; Adobe Connect; or other instructional means.

Other organizations also provide distance learning, and there are some that specialize in distance learning, and offer that kind of opportunity exclusively. With any school that you are considering enrolling in, but particularly with those that have only an online presence, be sure to check their accreditation and google them to be sure that they are legitimate and are producing satisfied customers.

Other Thoughts for Adults Returning to College

Before you firm up your plans for returning to college, there are several things you may wish to consider:

  • What’s your overall plan for completion of your goals? How much time/day and time/week over how many months or years are you looking at?
  • How much will this cost? Are there grants or scholarships that you may be eligible for to help defray some of the costs?
  • Is the degree of the quality you need to pursue your goals? Have you checked the course provider’s accreditation?

American Association of Community Colleges aacc.nche.edu

Written by Mary Elizabeth