Finishing college is hard. Finishing it as an adult is even harder. If it was easy a lot more than 33 percent of returning adult college students would graduate.
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.
Almost everyone I've encountered who has considered going back to college to finish an undergraduate degree wants 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 somehow think they can take several classes at one time and finish their degree quickly. The result? Most end up quitting college - again.
Often this happens because these individuals forget why they quit the first time. They fail to account for the commitments they have today that they didn’t have when they first attended college and – here’s the biggie – while work and life experiences do give adult students an advantage, it’s not the kind of advantage that lets people breeze through classes and double up on course loads
Here are some realities that anyone considering a return to college should keep in mind:
- Full-time enrollment takes more hours each day to finish than part-time enrollment
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 to be with friends and family, go grocery shopping, actually commute to and from your job and do anything recreational. That’s not much time, and for most it’s unsustainable over the period of time it takes to finish their degree.
- Part-time college enrollment takes more years to finish than full-time enrollment
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 one’s 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 my blog post about how many courses to take each semester to help you decide how many courses you should take.
- Take advantage of what you learn
Yes, those dreaded General Education Requirements may make you wonder why on earth you have to take them but you’ll quickly learn why. It’s because they teach you valuable lessons that you can apply to many other facets in your life. Some will be small, some will be big, but you will learn.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my required Biology course (not anything in which, at the time, I was remotely interested). I learned about the process of research. I’m talking about what makes research good and what makes it not so good. I use this every time a report comes out saying such and such research says... because now I know how to evaluate and assess it to determine if it’s good research or not so good research.
- Future jobs will require a bachelor’s degree
The reality is by the year 2020, 67 percent of all jobs in North Carolina will require a college degree. Yes, 67 percent. That’s astounding when you realize that only 29 percent of North Carolina residents have an associate's or bachelor's degree.
- Time passes anyway
There’s a quote attributed to Earl Nightingale – “Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”
I think the most important part here is “..best possible use.” It’s a clear message that isn't “finish fast” or “finish at all costs.” It’s about taking the time you have and putting it to good and logical use. Life is what it is and it happens while you live it. So wisely choose how to spend your time and accomplish your goal. Remember why you’re doing it and that, for most, it’s not so much about WHEN you finish your degree, it’s about FINISHING it.
By: Kelly Paul
Photo courtesy of Unsplash