Tips for continuing education

When you go back to school as an adult learner, you’ll need to build new habits and break old ones.

These seven success tips for continuing education students will not only propel you towards academic success – they’ll help you build a routine for your family, too.
Be Honest About Your Discomfort:
Going back to school can be intimidating, especially if everyone seems younger and smarter. Let yourself feel scared, anxious, or awkward. More importantly, share your discomfort with others. Not only does verbalizing your anxieties as a continuing education student make them seem less scary, it also encourages others to share their fears with you. Simply hearing that others have or had the same fears, or learning how they dealt with their academic obstacles, can help you cope with your new “job.” This habit of an effective adult learner can translate to success and better relationships in “real” life, too.

Set a Realistic Study Schedule:
When you’re going back to school, build in time for regular homework sessions (no cramming!), your family, work, chores, and your own needs. If you have kids in school, do your homework when they do theirs. Expect to revise your study schedule as needed, depending on your assignments, work life, family life, and health. Your new schedule may have kinks in the beginning, but if you persevere through the initial stages and revise as needed, you’ll be more likely to be successful. Study schedules are an important habit of effective adult education students.

Organize Your Surroundings:
Your study space at home doesn’t have to be huge or elaborate, but it does have to be quiet. When you’re carving out your own study area, make sure it’s well-lit, comfortable, and well-ventilated. You’ll need a desk or table, and perhaps a bulletin board for upcoming due dates, motivational quotations, and funny pictures. Make sure you’re equipped with the proper school supplies (notebooks, pens, file folders, binders, White-out, etc). If you don’t already have one, you’ll probably need a computer with a good internet connection and a printer. Scanners, faxes, and photocopiers are perks for continuing education students, but not usually necessary.

Find Pockets of Time:
Can you read your course material when you commute, take a lunch break at work, or can’t sleep? Keep your notes, assignments, or even your textbook with you at all times, so you can review if you’re waiting at the doctor’s office or bank. When you’re going back to school, plucking 5 or 10 minutes from your daily routine can add up to an hour or more. Plus, one of the most effective ways to study is to review for short bursts of time, and take regular breaks. Making the course material a part of your daily life is a success tip for continuing education students that could improve your memory and boost your grades.

Learn How to Take Exams:
Knowing how to study for and take a test can be as important as knowing the material. Use the school’s resources, and learn about effective test-taking strategies (eg, read over the whole exam before answering any questions, answer the easy questions first, make sure you understand the questions, watch the clock so you don’t run out of time, etc). Don’t be afraid to approach your instructor if you’re confused about the material or need extra information. The teacher’s job is to help you learn and succeed.

Learn to Say No:
This success tip for continuing education students works in any aspect of your professional or personal life! You may not be able to say no to a particular assignment or exam material, but you can say no to volunteer requests, favors for friends, extra work at work, or your own family. Prioritize your education; if you don’t take your classes or degree seriously, neither will anyone else.

Line Up Your Cheering Squad:
Make time for on-campus groups of people who are doing what you want to do. Initiate conversations with people who went back to school and successfully balanced their work, family, and social lives (if they weren’t successful, learn from their mistakes!). If you liked the school’s admissions advisor or career counselor, poke your head in her office for doses of encouragement or advice. Avoid the nay-sayers or energy drains.
These success tips for continuing education students should be implemented slowly, so don’t feel pressured to apply all them all at once. When you have one or two or three down (new habits usually take 6-8 weeks to establish), choose another habit. Before you know it, you’ll be the geek in class that everyone secretly admires.

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