The basic skills needed to back to college are not the same as they were twenty or thirty years ago. At that time, the vast majority of college students had just graduated from high school, and were most likely to attend a four year public or private university. Recent changes in the economy, and the shift from manufacturing jobs to those in the service sectors have had a significant impact on the demographics of today’s college students. A much greater percentage of students are over the age of thirty. Some are married, with or without children, while others are single parents. Many work full-time jobs, or significant numbers of hours at part-time jobs while they attend classes. Many others are attending college to learn new professions because they lost their jobs.
Basic reading and math skills are as important for today’s incoming college students as they have always been. Other skills, however, have become necessary for the new breed of college freshmen. They include time management skills, study skills, and basic computer skills. Without these, working parents in particular, will be unable to successfully complete their studies.
Time management skills are extremely important for those students with limited free time. Being a full-time college student requires setting aside at least ninety minutes to two hours per day for homework assignments and study time for exams. Working parents have the greatest difficulty achieving this goal. This can best be accomplished by developing a daily schedule which will accommodate time needed for schoolwork.
Study skills are important, as well. Students who require the most help in this area would be older students who have been out of school for at least ten years. Even recent high school graduates are often hampered by poor study skills. Many would manage to get good grades by just studying an hour or two the night before an exam. College exams, however, are more difficult and challenging, because the subject matter is more difficult and extensive. As part of study skills, students need to be aware of their learning styles, and applying them toward studying for exams. Some are visual learners; some are auditory learners, while others learn best through role-playing and interacting with others.
Finally, basic computer skills are essential for college students. They serve to facilitate research projects and writing term papers. They enable many students to pursue their college degrees by taking on-line courses. These programs have become increasingly popular for working adults with families because they can perform classwork in the comfort and convenience of their homes.
Current trends in the labor market have forced many to return to college to learn new professions. Career colleges and on-line universities have been springing up throughout the United States. They are attracting older students burdened with added financial and family responsibilities. Reading, writing, and arithmetic skills are only part of they need to complete their studies. Learning to combine school with work and family will prove to be the greater challenge.