College and Career Readiness for Adults: Going Back to School

Adults have skills that will help them go back to school.

College and career readiness doesn’t apply only to young people. Suppose you have been home with your children and out of the workforce for 10 years. How do you compete with those who have 21st-century skills?

One option is to update your skills. So being college and career ready would affect you the same way as if you had been in the workforce and were returning to school to further your education or change careers. You might think over the past 10 years you have not used the skills needed to be successful in college, but you could not be more wrong. You have actually perfected some of the necessary skills whereas you will actually have an advantage over some of the other students in your program of choice.

For example, you know how to manage your time in order to accomplish everything that needs to be done within a certain time frame. First, sit down and make a list of everything you accomplish throughout the day and how you juggle it all in order to keep everything running so smoothly. Now reread that list, and you will see you have already perfected many of the necessary skills to be successful in college.

Going back to school: What should you consider?

Now stop and breathe for a minute. Here are the next steps you will need to take to become ready for this new adventure in your life.

  • Start thinking about what you want to study and visit a state or technical college in your area to see the type of programs they offer.
  • Investigate online programs to see if this would be a better option for your current home life situation.
  • Whether you are looking at a land-based or online program, make an appointment with student services or a guidance counselor to discuss the different programs.
  • If you are taking land-based classes, schedule a time to walk through the campus.
  • All colleges and technical colleges have pretests and classes you can take first to help guide you in deciding what direction to take your career goals.
  • Make an appointment and take the career audit tests they offer. The tests might help you decide between two career goals.

OK. I have decided on my next career, now what?

The next phase is for research.

  • Investigate job opportunities, talk to people doing the role, and visit a company to see what it is like. You are going to invest a good portion of your time and energy into returning to college or technical college so make sure this is a career path you want to pursue.
  • Tell your family and friends you are researching returning to college or technical college and the career goals you have set for yourself. Get their buy-in and accept any offers of introductions to people who have done what you want to do.
  • Start trying to figure out how you’ll balance classes and studies with current obligations. Do not try to do everything you are doing now and start this new adventure.

Now contact student services or guidance counselor

After you investigate programs and potential career paths, here are some steps to take before you formally go back to school.

  • Once again, you will need to talk to student services or a guidance counselor who supports adult learners to apply and register for classes.
  • Take the required tests to determine if you need to sign up for a refresher course in study skills or mathematics. The tests are given to set you up for success; the college wants you to be prepared for the expected course load.
  • Ask about free tutoring; most colleges and technical colleges offer this service for land-based and online students. You might never need it, but if you do it is nice to know it is there for support.
  • Discuss how long the program will take you to complete if you attend full or part time.
  • Ask if the college has services to help you with job placement after you complete your program.

You would like to return to the workforce after being out for 10 years, and you worry that you might not know where to go for guidance. Now you have a few ideas on how to move forward on this quest.

College and technical colleges have changed a lot in the last 10 years. They now have a support system set up to help students be successful with their educational goals. More programs are offered during time frames that work for the adult learner, tutoring programs are in place, and technology has made furthering your education easier. This is just the first step in your new adventure; there are many more to come.

Dr. Sandra Lyn Jewell is a faculty member in the master’s program at Marygrove College – Detroit, where she teaches reading & literacy courses as well as a faculty member in the master’s program at Concordia University – Portland, where she teaches in the K-12 education and career & technical education departments.