Survival 101 for Returning Students

You are entitled to be a student in higher education.

Photo of Dad and Son

As an adult learner, you have responsibilities and special needs and concerns which are different from traditionally-aged students going to college immediately following high school. Probably, your student role is secondary to your career and/or family roles. You likely have outside activities and responsibilities which conflict with your studies. You may need to make some adjustments to achieve a balance in your life as you adapt or, in some cases, adapt again, to the academic environment. Believe it or not, you are not alone.

  • 30% of UWF students are returning students
  • The average age of a UWF student is 26.8 years old

You Have The Ability To Succeed.

Acknowledgements: David Acres & Sandra Graham College of St. John, Plymouth

Top Ten Image next to a stack of books.
 Top 10 Observations About a Returning Student 
10  You are the only person sitting in the first row.
9  You attend class after work.
8  You work your school schedule around work and family and not the other way around.
 7  Your professors look younger than your children and definitely younger than you.
 6  Your most expensive payment is not your car.
 5  You think of weekends as a time to do errands, housework, yard work and parenting...not hanging out.
 4  You drink coffee in the afternoon.
 3  Your favorite shoes are older than most of your classmates.
 2  You're the first one to arrive in class and the last one to leave.
 1  You remember seeing Star Wars the first time around.






Acknowledgement:  Returning To Learning, The Office of Adult & Transfer Services Wright University

Helpful Programs for Returning Students

As you explore colleges and universities, remember to ask about services and programs specifically geared for the returning student. These may Include:

  • Distance Learning
  • Evening and Weekend Classes
  • Skills Teaching Classes: Study Skills, Stress Management, and Coping Skills
  • Skills Classes in Writing, Math, and Test-Taking
  • Accelerated Degree Programs that Allow Returning Students an Opportunity to Earn a Degree in Less Time than the Traditional Student
  • Credit for Prior Learning and Past Experiences
  • Child Care
  • Job Placement and  Career Counseling
  • Personal Counseling
  • Tutoring to Help Students Achieve Their Goals

Strategies and Tips 

Remember, you are not alone; there are other adult students taking college courses. Here are some strategies and tips to consider:

  • If you are working full-time and attending college part-time, ease into the program of study by taking only one course at first until you become adjusted to your new way of life
  • Talk with your family and employer about ways they can help balance family, work, and school obligations.
  • Adults often tend to have more outside sources of stress than the traditionally-aged student. Look for ways to balance your life by eliminating unnecessary stress and reviewing your priorities
  • Make a plan for where and when you will study. Identify a place where you will not be interrupted and schedule blocks of time to devote to schoolwork
  • Think about how your priorities and commitments may need to change. Once you start classes; for example, will you still have time to clean the house regularly or can you ask your family to help or clean less often.
  • Be aware of the resources provided by the college which offer support for adult students and where to go for these services. There are avenues to get support you need to assist you in completing your educational goals.
  • Be sure to take time for yourself, especially after completing an exam, a big project or in between semesters. You work hard and you deserve a reward.
  • If you have questions, be sure to ask. There are no bad questions unless they go unanswered.
  • Enjoy the experience of attending college. It’s a great opportunity – make the most of it.

Additional Resources

Re-entry Challenges and Survival Tips for Adult Students

Association For Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education