It has been well said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, however, the good news is that human beings aren’t dogs. At any stage of life, an adult can chose to return to the world of education to either complete a degree or diploma that he or she was unable to earn earlier in life, or to advance their career or to increase their knowledge. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of anxiety that can accompany an adult learner.
One of the most common anxieties that tend to plague adult learners is the issue of fitting in. A woman in her fifties, for example, might feel out of place in a classroom full of 17, 18 and 19 year old students. Still, it is important to realize something about this particular anxiety. Many times younger students relish the idea of having an older learner in class. The older learner can provide them with real world experience and advice that they may not be able to get even from their instructor. The age difference, in many ways, can be an asset to the adult learner rather than a source of anxiety for the adult learner.
Another very common anxiety of adult learners is the issue of time management. As adult learners, we typically have other commitments. We have jobs, we have families, we have civic organizations in which we belong and we have obligations elsewhere in the community. We don’t have 40 hours a week, in most cases, which we can devote to our education. This means that it can be much more challenging for an adult learner to keep up with a homework and the study load when returning to school. The most important thing to remember here is that most adults are better able to balance those activities than younger students. By the time you’ve raised children, for example, you know how to get one child to a soccer game while you take another to their ballet lesson all while planning dinner for the evening and filing your tax return. This doesn’t mean as an adult learner that you should over commit, it just means that as an adult learner you may have more resources when it comes to balancing your educational work with the rest of your life.
Another anxiety of adult learners has to do with their family. Adult learners are often concerned that their family won’t understand their motivations for wanting to go back to school. The adult learner’s family may be concerned that their school commitments will take away from their family commitments. One of the most things to keep in mind in this regard is that you should try to make your family your allies in your education, rather than having them compete with your education. Help your family understand that, in the long run, your education benefits the entire family.
While there are significant anxieties that accompany the process of returning to school as an adult learner, there are also many opportunities that adult learning provides for everyone involved.