It’s no secret that obtaining an advanced degree is a huge commitment. When you factor in the additional demands encountered by adults who are returning to school, the list can add up quickly. Adult learners encounter an inimitable set of challenges when pursuing or returning to complete a post-secondary degree. The vast majority of them are working full-time and have many other commitments (children, spouses, family obligations, etc.) that compete for top priority. Often times, those other commitments may win the priority battle over class and study time, homework, essays, and more.
Lack of available time and/or ability to balance responsibilities can easily lead to increased stress, frustration, and negative coping mechanisms — as suggested by research conducted by Borchert, Giancola, and Grawitch — and negatively impact retention rates. Think about what you can do to further support this growing student population. After all, the overall success of an adult student is not solely determined by academic preparation.
What resources exist or can be made available to help this expanding student population learn to balance the ever-teetering scale of responsibilities? Do your academic and program advisors have a fundamental understanding of what kind of support strategy is paramount to the educational success of adult students — especially online? Has the university considered offering tailored resources for adult learners, aimed at facilitating a smoother transition back into the educational sphere?
When a student chooses to further his or her education with your school, as an institution of higher learning, there is an inherent obligation to ensure that the student is properly guided towards success. Think about how even a small token, such as a warm phone call from an advisor, a simple email highlighting what to expect, a guide to available resources, flexible learning environments, or a welcome video from integral college staff such as the dean or program chair could make a difference. I challenge you to rethink your strategies and devise innovative ways to support this rising student population – from admission to graduation!