Going back to school in recessionary times means college for more adults. Many of these returning students will find some differences from their previous college days, both on and off campus. They and their younger counterparts need to schedule work and play, and remember to ask for help from family and college staff
School is starting in a matter of days at metro area colleges, and students will still need the usual gear: pens, notebooks, a syllabus and books for each class.
But some classes may be online and others on outlying campuses. Students will have access to the colleges computers and may bring laptops to campus, where some, if not all, buildings have Wi-Fi. College e-mail accounts will allow them to send work to their home computers as well as to correspond with other students, faculty and staff. The student body will likely include many adults seeking new or updated skills as a result of the recession.
Getting Down To Business
"A lot of adult students are ready to go," says Lynne Schulz, an admissions counselor at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul (www.metrostate.edu), where the average age of students is 31. "They realize they need to have a certificate or diploma to get an interview."
Schulz recommends that adult students with families talk to them about the time commitment, "especially women, who need to talk to their children and husband about helping," she says. "For every hour you spend in class, plan on two hours of studying away from the classroom." Because healthcare programs are so popular, students may end up on a waiting list to start their major. For example, the practical nursing, surgical technician and occupational therapy assistant programs at Anoka Technical College all have waiting lists. Anoka and other colleges recommend they use the semesters preceding their acceptance into a program to take general education courses or to consider other options. "If a student has an interest in a healthcare program that has a waiting list, we'll also talk with them about other career pathways that may be related," adds Mary Ann Jackels, dean of Academic Resources at Anoka (www.anokatech.edu).
Don't Make Career Assumptions
Bill Baldus, a career counselor at Metropolitan State, says that students shouldn't assume that nursing, for instance, will lead quickly to lucrative work that they will enjoy.
"I caution folks to not go into it just because it's a growing field or because the job search will be relatively easy, but to be really sure that they love science, that they love math or at least can tolerate it, and that it will be something they really like once they get there," he says.
Baldus recommends students balance written material and statistics about career outlooks with conversations with people already working in the field. He also reminds students that the university offers lots of assistance in narrowing down the best major.
Baldus suggests: "Even if a person hasn't decided what they're going to do with their degree or what they're going to do career-wise, just take that first step and get the ball rolling."