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Jennifer PoindexterHow I Went Back to School (and You Can Too)

by Jennifer Poindexter

I know what you are thinking, “Another person who put their Superman cape on and went back to school. Well, I’m not Superman.” No worries, I wasn’t either. As a matter of fact, I am a woman so I am excluded from that club all together.

I am just a young married woman, raising three kids, who made the decision to return to school at age 26. I received my Associate's degree in English right after I graduated from high school, but I stopped pursuing my education. I had a job I enjoyed; I got married, and then came kids.

However, life happened. My mother in law was diagnosed with cancer so my husband and I decided to sell our home in Kentucky, uproot our family, and move over 300 miles away to North Carolina to be closer to his family. When we moved we decided it would be best if I became a stay-at-home mom in order to spend more time with our children and be available to help care for my mother in law. Thankfully she pulled through her battle with cancer, but I remained at home to care for our family full-time.

After being at home a few years, I realized I needed to do something for me but how? I was so busy with all of the responsibilities that come with managing a family: running the kids around town, cleaning the house, and taking care of my husband. How was I ever going to add anything more to my plate? But something needed to be done, so I took the leap of faith and decided to return to school at age 26. Now (two years later), I am about to graduate and am so glad I did!

Following are six tips that helped me move through the challenges toward the finish line.

1. Do your research. Before going back to college, do your research. It is important to consider your major, which school you will attend, and how their financial aid works. I chose business administration with a concentration in accounting. (I like to crunch numbers.) I did all of my research online through Google with a specific search criteria in mind. The things that mattered most to me were being able to do all of my coursework online, the cost of tuition, the accreditation of the school, and what Web site or technology they used for their online classes. (I am personally a huge fan of Moodle because it is very easy to navigate.) I began by searching all of the schools located in my state. Then I looked at all of the well-known online programs. As I attended college right out of high school I also researched the college I previously attended (Midway University) and decided to return as it appeared to be the best fit.

I recommend online learning as much as possible for the working adult. It makes life so much easier simply because you can do course work anytime, anywhere. Not every school offers the online option, but those who do allow you to take a look at how their program works before applying. Do the tour and see which program works best for you.

Along with the cost of tuition, financial aid is extremely important. Most of us do not have the cash for school just lying around somewhere so you will most likely need aid. Fill out the FAFSA form but also make sure the school offers the federal financial aid programs. I came across a few in my search that did not. As this was an issue for me I did not choose to attend those schools.

2. Use Time Management Techniques. Time management will almost completely determine your success or failure at college (in other aspects of life as well). It is a skill you must obtain if you are an adult student. Why? Because without time management you will surely drop at least one of the things you are juggling. It is something you can learn, so do not give up if your are not a pro yet. Old dogs can learn new tricks (and I am proof of this).

The first tip to managing your time is to create a weekly (or monthly) schedule. At the end of each week it is important to have a planning day for the next week. Look over what is coming up. What appointments do you have? What assignments will be due? What do you have going on at work or with your family? This is the time to glance over the week ahead so you can prepare. Then make your schedule. It can be a calendar you keep or my favorite, a plain piece of paper with all the days of the week listed. Divide out each task by day so you will not become overwhelmed and nothing will be missed.

The next step (after you create your schedule) is to make a list for each day. Be specific. If you have daily chores such as dishes that need to be done, add them. Write everything down that needs to be accomplished so nothing is forgotten. This always kept me motivated because I realized I had a lot to do and needed to keep moving. It also gave me a mental boost being able to mark things off as they were completed. It gave me confidence to physically see that I could accomplish so much in a day.


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