Going Back to College

Going Back to College

Keys to Academic Success as an Adult College Student

Returning to college as an adult is a great way to jump start both a career and a life. And, as a former study skills teacher at a community college, I have good news. Returning adult students tend to do very, very well in school.

Why? Older students often have stronger motives to attend college than the fresh-from-high-school crowd, so the older students take it more seriously. They bring maturity and, often, a work ethic that the younger folks can only marvel at. All these qualities give the older student a great advantage.

But academics may be a concern if you’re returning to college. Algebra may seem like a distant memory. And English – well, using it every day doesn’t mean that you remember all the details. You will need to do some background work, set preparation goals for yourself, and find resources to help you achieve those goals.

First, read the website of the college you plan to attend. Find out the academic requirements for entrance and placement in the classes you want to take.

Second, schedule an appointment with an admissions counselor. Ask him or her about academic requirements, including information about entrance and placement exams.

Not all colleges require an entrance exam (like the SAT or ACT) but the majority require you to take a placement exam, one that will assess your skills and place you in the proper English or math class. You should prepare for this test; a low score on the exam means you will start your college career in remedial classes. That’s fine, if you need the help. But if a little review will keep you out of remedial classes, you should save yourself time and money by preparing for the placement exam.

Third, once you know the name of the placement exam, visit its website. You are likely to find information about what’s on the exam and materials to help you prepare, including practice tests. You might also check your favorite bookstore to see if they have (or can order) preparation materials for that exam.

Finally, once the placement exam is behind you and you’re enrolled in class, you’ll find that good reading and writing skills cut across all the disciplines. You’ll need to be a good reader of nonfiction. An ability to understand information graphically – diagrams, charts, graphs, and tables – will also be crucial no matter what you study. Writing skills are needed in all classes as well. The ability to organize information by order of importance or in chronological order is a must. Grouping ideas into logical paragraphs is an important skill for academic writers.

Mathematics skill requirements vary by subject studied. Check with the admissions counselor to learn about the math required for your field.

And here’s one last bit of good news: you’ll find a great deal of academic help and support at most colleges. Study skills classes like the one I taught are very common, as are tutoring centers. If you start having trouble in a class, go to the tutoring center right away. They are eager to help you keep up with class. Finally, professors will help set you on the right course. They have office hours for you to visit and discuss the class and some have review sessions, extra help for those who want it.