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How I Went Back to School (and You Can Too)

(Continued from 1)

4. Know Your Limits. I did not know my limits when I first returned to college. I went back full-time, and tried to raise a family while attending and working from home. That lasted all of a year, and I realized I had limits. I was in such a hurry to finish my degree that I was killing myself trying to get there. I eventually realized if I dropped back to six or nine hours a semester it would only extend my time in school by a semester. That is exactly what I did and life became much easier to handle.

3. Practice Stress Management. If I told you going back to school as an adult was not a little stressful at times, I would be a liar. Knowing how to handle this stress is important. If the school work begins to overwhelm you, take a break. If work or the kids are becoming more demanding, just do what you can. I have found most schools are very helpful with adult learners. They understand in most cases. Be honest with your professor if you are struggling with something. Usually, they are friendly and want to see you succeed.

5. Streamline Study Habits. Returning to college brings a lot of academic work with it. Knowing how to handle an academic workload efficiently is an important part of achieving the grades for a high GPA and your college transcript.

The first challenge you are likely to face is the amount of reading. Professors, especially in online courses or accelerated courses, assign several chapters to read each week. They are required to assign these chapters to complete the materials for the course. In accelerated programs, they have to assign the same amount of work in an eight week course as a 16 week course. Obviously, this equates to a lot of reading. In all honesty, even if all I had to do in life was course work I still could not get through all of those chapters.

That is why the first step in effective study is to stop reading. You must learn to skim and highlight. This will help you to gain knowledge and understanding of the topic but not bog you down with too much information. My method of skimming is similar to the SQR3 method. First I read the introduction to the chapter. I read the first sentence, last sentence, and a few sentences in between each section as I move along. I always read where words are bolded as well. Then I highlight the important points that I need to know for a test.

If possible, try to stay on top of all assignments. When you fall behind it is really hard to get caught up and do quality work. So be sure to stay as organized and on top of things as possible.

Above all, do the best you can. You have to care and want to succeed at school as an adult. You cannot just try to scrape by, you need to give everything you do an honest effort. Professors can tell when you truly care in comparison to someone that is barely trying to get by. I have used these study habits throughout my time in school, and I am happy to say that I will be graduating this upcoming year, and I have a 4.0 GPA.

6. Persevere. Perseverance is the main ingredient to success when going back to college as an adult. You will face obstacles. You will face times when you feel overwhelmed, and I am letting you know upfront, there will be times you will want to quit. However, perseverance is what is going to stop you from giving up when you face those difficult times. You need to remind yourself of the long term. The doors of opportunity that will open and the great example you will set for those around you who are watching. In those moments during my journey when I wanted to give up, my children are what kept me going. I wanted to show them that if I can do this as a married mother of three then they can do anything they want to do.

Going back to college will strengthen you in more ways than you can imagine. I am no "superhero", just a woman with a dream that wanted to show my children that if you dream something you can achieve it. More than anything, I wanted to prove it to myself. I went back to school as an adult, and I am here to tell you that you can too!

Jennifer Poindexter lives in rural North Carolina. She will receive a B.A. degree in Business Administration/Accounting from Midway University in early 2016.

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