Campus Nature Scene – Tree with white flowers

Strategies for Returning Students

You are entitled to be a student in higher education.


A returning student is a student returning to college outside of the typical four-year timeframe after high school. As a non-traditional student, you might have responsibilities, special needs, and concerns which are different from traditionally-aged students enrolling in college immediately following high school. 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.

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 and workshops 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.
  • Childcare opportunities.
  • Job placement and career counseling.
  • Personal counseling.
  • Tutoring services to help students achieve their goals.

Strategies and Tips for the Returning Student

  • 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.
  • 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, 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 the support you need to assist you in completing your educational goals. 

If you feel you may be struggling with returning to higher education or would like to consult a counselor to discuss how best to utilize our resources to make your return more successful, please contact us at 850.474.2420 or stop by Counseling and Psychological Services in Building 960, Suite 200A, to schedule an appointment.

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