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How to Overcome Your Fear of Going Back to College as an Adult

How to Overcome Your Fear of Going Back to College as an Adult

According to a study by the US Bureau of Labor in 2021, approximately 38.2% of high school graduates didn’t enroll in college. Another study conducted in 2019 revealed that 44% of students didn’t get into college right after high school. They often enroll after four years.

Therefore, do not be ashamed if you didn’t enroll in college immediately after high school graduation. 

You’re not alone; there are many other students who delayed their college enrollment and completed graduation at an older age. 

Fear of returning to college is a common experience; most adults who did after a lengthy absence have coped with it—dealing with it isn’t as scary or difficult as you would think. 

 In this guide, I’ll be showing you how to overcome your fear of going back to college as an adult. 

Key Takeaways

  • Embrace self-confidence by disregarding what others think; negative self-perception is often the real challenge.
  • Overcome social anxiety by actively engaging with new people and gradually conquering your fears.
  • New adventures, such as going back to school, can be intimidating; however, taking the first step is the hardest. Once you do, the path ahead becomes less daunting.

Seven Most Common Reasons Why Adult Students Fear Going Back to College

There are numerous reasons that may hinder an adult from returning to college; the following seven are the most common:

  • Old Age: Often, adults fear being judged by younger students in college due to the age gap.
  • Self-Doubt: Adults may doubt their ability to achieve comparable academic performance to younger students.
  • Financial Concern: The cost of tuition, books, sheets, transportation, and other costs can cause fear if the person isn’t well-off.
  • Time Commitment: Balancing work, family responsibilities, and college can be difficult, leading to anxiety in many adults.
  • Social Anxiety: Some introverts are scared of interacting with new people, which can cause social anxiety. Many of the adult students hesitate to go back to classroom and talk to their professors.
  • Fear of Failure: The fear of not being able to complete the course or achieve the educational goals holds a lot of adults back from returning to college.
  • Change in Routine: Enrolling in college for more education may disrupt established routines and habits; however, some adults aren’t comfortable getting out of their schedules.

Overcoming the Fears of Going Back to College

According to Forbes, one million college dropouts have re-enrolled in colleges between 2014 and 2019. See? Many people like you demonstrated courage to pick things up from where they left off. You can overcome the fears of going back to college if others can.

To overcome any fear, you need a combination of mental, physical, and emotional strategies. Furthermore, it’s a journey that requires courage, passion, and patience. Here, we’ll be looking into the seven strategies to overcome the fear. 

1. Acknowledge that You’re Afraid

Most people who are scared try to fight off the fear by acting otherwise, which worsens the situation.

Tell yourself, “Everyone is afraid of something, and it’s okay for me to be afraid to go back to college.”

Accepting the fear allows you to analyze and understand it better, which is a crucial step in overcoming fear; hiding it will only make you more afraid. 

2. Understand the Fear

Now consider the possible root cause of the fear. Is it because of the age gap? Or is it due to financial issues? Interpret the fear, this will help you get rid of it. 

3. Talk with Family and Friends

Next, discuss it with your family members and close friends. Specifically, share the matter only with people who actually care for you. 

Share your concerns and feelings with them. Consult with your family and come up with a plan if it’s a financial issue. Having someone holding your back will make the journey seamless.

Don’t panic if you are a parent with children. You can do it with the help of your partner or friends.

I know it might be a little difficult to open up to your family members; however, don’t forget they are your biggest support. Chances are high that you’ll give up if you try to cross a fearful road all alone.

Moreover, they are your family and will understand and support you regardless of your fears.

4. Join a Support Group 

You will find some support groups comprising students who didn’t get into college right after school if you look around. Joining one of such groups can be a huge boost to your new journey. 

Typically, there will be people who are currently walking your road and those who’ve already done that. People in such groups share a lot of useful resources and information. 

As you discuss, seek advice, open up about your anxieties, and you’ll derive so much emotional support. Consequently, you’ll realize that you’re not alone and can get through much worse. 

Get in touch with people who have had similar experiences if you don’t find support groups. It’ll significantly help other people like you out there. 

5. Imagine the Worst Scenario 

As a typical adult, you’re afraid that young students in college will judge you because of your age. Now, assume that they are judging you for your age. What’s the worst thing that can happen? 

In the beginning, you might just feel intimidated a bit. Then what? 

Some students are staring at you for a few days—that’s the worst-case scenario. And that, too, will stop in a few days because people will get used to it. 

Ask yourself, “is there anything that will physically harm me?” Or “is there anything that will ruin my future?” 

If the answer is “No,” then understand that dealing with this fear is very easy. 

You only need to step into the octagon. Once you face it with courage, trust me, it’s going to fade away. Yes, I know that imagining the worst scenario might aggravate your anxiety, which is bad. However, you’ll realize how easy it is to get over that fear once you face it. Thus, it’s definitely worth the sacrifice.

6. Prepare Yourself

Equip yourself adequately before college to relieve you of stress. Take care of the following in advance:

  • Know how much tuition and other fees you’ll have to pay
  • Sit & talk with your family and plan how to deal with the cost
  • Make a budget and keep some money aside for emergencies
  • Get all the necessary textbooks
  • Gather the class routine
  • Familiarize yourself with the offices, library, etc. on the campus
  • Do some homework on the starting chapters

According to psychologist Robert Epstein, preparing in advance and planning things can significantly reduce stress. 

Additionally, look for someone from the same age group who has also enrolled in college. This can allay the fear.

7. Keep a Positive Mindset

When you start thinking of doing something that’s out of your comfort zone, being clouded by negative thoughts is very natural. Everyone who has achieved something in life has gone through it, and you’re no exception.

Stop thinking you are not capable of completing college, or other students won’t accept you, or that you might fail. 

You’re what you think; hence, don’t think negative. Keep a positive mindset, and remind yourself that you’re not worthless. 

Furthermore, keep in mind that at the beginning, things might be a little awkward; however, everything will become normal with time. 

For instance, it might be hard for you to catch up with the lectures initially; you will adjust with time. As much as others are doing it, you can do it as well.

Go to College

The most effective way to overcome fear is to face it. Just search online, and you’ll find top psychologists saying it.

Just get in even if you’re afraid that younger students won’t accept you due to your age, or you won’t be able to pass the tests, or you’re not feeling like changing the routine.

Sit and talk to your family. If you have their full support, enroll and resume college. Without a doubt, the first day will be a little uncomfortable; however, I can assure you that by the tenth day, things will be considerably less awkward.

As time passes, you’ll start to settle in. Stay attentive in the lectures, do the homework, and sit for the tests with full confidence. In the beginning, you might fail, which is part of the learning process; nevertheless, you have to keep going.

Reach out to your teachers after the class if the lectures are hard to understand. Alternatively, you can solve your problems online using tutoring applications such as YouTube videos.

9 Practical Tips for the Academic Success of Adult Learners

Returning back to college after a long break can be challenging. Nonetheless, you can overcome with proper guidance, planning, and discipline. Here are some practical tips to achieve good academic performance—

  1. Remember the goal for which you’ve returned to college—this should keep you motivated.
  2. Pick a major that blends with your interests—this will make studying fun and easy for you.
  3. Create a daily study and work schedule.
  4. Pick a quiet, clean, and comfortable study room where you can study without any disturbance.
  5. Take advantage of the college support services such as tutoring, library resources, and academic advising.
  6. Try your best to build a network with students, seniors, and professors.
  7. Group studies can help massively in understanding different topics.
  8. Set achievable goals and diligently pursue them.
  9. Don’t hesitate to seek help when needed.

Final Thoughts on Overcoming Fears of Returning to College After Long Absence

Everyone struggles with something, and those who have achieved something in life, oftentimes sacrifice their comfort. 

Thus, get right to it if you are passionate about returning to school or getting a college degree. I hope this guide helps.

Emily Watson
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