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How to finish college as an adult student

June 23, 2021 by UNCG Online |

How-to-Finish-College-as-an-Adult-Student_BlogFinishing college is hard. Finishing it as an adult is even harder. If it was easy, a lot more people would do it. Face it, you’re likely juggling a full-time job and caring for kids, parents, or both.

Finishing college also takes time. It takes time every day to attend class and complete coursework, and it takes time to complete all the required courses to earn a degree.

The reality is that 67 percent of all NC jobs are projected to require a credential or college degree by 2030. That’s a compelling reason to finish a bachelor's degree, and it's natural to want to do it in as little time as possible.

Many adult college students think since they're older and have some real-world experience that classroom learning will be quick and easy. They think they can take several classes at once and finish their degree quickly. The result? Most end up quitting college — again — because they don't account for the time it takes to juggle college with work and family life. While these life experiences are an advantage, they’re not the kind that let people breeze through classes and double up on course loads.

But there is good news. Thanks to online bachelor's programs, it is possible to juggle college with work and family life — it just takes a realistic assessment of your time. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Enrolling full-time is the fastest way to graduate, but it requires more daily study time.

A full-time undergraduate course load is 12 credit hours each semester. That’s four 3-hour courses. When you do the math of expected time dedicated to completing coursework, this equates to 32 hours of coursework each week. By the time you add sleeping and working full-time, you have little time left for friends and family, grocery shopping, commuting to and from your job, and recreation. That’s not much time, and for most it’s unsustainable over the period of time it takes to finish a degree.

Enrolling part-time means it will take longer to finish your degree, but it may be the best option.

This is a tough one for most to swallow. We live in a quick-fix world. We want things and we want them now. The problem is it takes time to learn, and it takes time to incorporate a formal education into life as a working adult. Taking just two classes a term means you’ll spend twice as much time in years finishing your degree. But you’ll have 16 more hours in your week to focus on the other things that are important to you, like your job and family. 

Everyone is different, but you can read the blog post to help you decide about how many courses to take each semester.

Slow and steady wins the race

Remember the fable about the tortoise and the hare? Think about the end of your race (graduation) and how you're going to get there given your other priorities as an adult student. Your goal is to cross the finish line — at a pace that works for you.

The original version of this blog was published in January 2015. It has been updated.


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