Oh, hello there. Today's blog post comes from the lovely and talented Sarah DeMille, a fabulous intern in Canadian Living's web department. A recent university graduate, Sarah has plenty of first-hand knowledge about what an adult student needs to know before hitting the books. She shares her best lessons below. Take it away, Sarah. Wishing you A+ grades every day, Jen. A full-time learner and part-time teacher as canadianliving.com's senior web editor. Getting back to the books: Tips for adult learners by Sarah DeMille [caption id="attachment_12770" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="istockphoto.com/monkeybusinessimages"] [/caption] As a recent university grad, I know how hard it can be to juggle the demands of both education and work and still try to accomplish everything you need to get done in a day. That's why I was so impressed and inspired when I interviewed 44-year old Heather McMillan, a wife and mother of three. She works full-time, holds two volunteer positions within her community, and decided to go back to school and become a student once again. "I thought going back to school would be a good experience and it would be something I could carve out in my life just for me," McMillan says. So she enrolled in the public administration program at the Chang School of Continuing Education at Toronto's Ryerson University to hone the skills she uses daily in her career as executive director at the Durham Regional Local Training Board. Gaining fresh knowledge would help her to keep an edge in today's job market. But going back to school demands time, money and commitment, so it isn't a decision you should take lightly. If you're thinking of hitting the books again take a few lessons from Heather, who shares what she learned about making the journey back into the world of education as easy as possible. 1. Get financial help Paying for your education might be one of the first issues to tackle before you hit the books. If cutting back your family's spending budget isn't an option, keep in mind that scholarships aren't just for younger students. As an adult student, Heather received a scholarship for continuing education that allowed her to pay for expenses. Search online for provincial scholarships and head down to your student office to ask about financial aid offerings for mature students. 2. Ask for help at home If you're a parent, your journey back to school will probably require a family effort. Ask family members to help contribute to household chores, stay on top of their own schedules, run errands and cart younger kids to and from school and events. Make the transition easy for everyone by assigning responsibilities early and teach anything they may need to know before your school term starts. For example, maybe the kids can make their own lunches, but you'll need to show them how to make parent-approved meals. And maybe your partner can help with the taxiing, but you may need to prepare a schedule of important dates and info to make sure everything stays on course. 2. Find a support system at school With your family onboard, and helping, you need to develop a strong support system within the school itself. That means making the effort to get out there and connect with other mature students who can help fill you in if you miss a class or need help with an assignment. If you have trouble finding a study buddy in class, check out your student office for groups that provide support for non-traditional students. Heather claims her connection to other students through the online community was essential to her scholarly success. "I find that you get so much more from speaking with other students who have some real-life experience of the things you're learning about." Many post-secondary schools also offer special perks for adult students such as career counseling, child care, and courses to update technology and writing skills. These offerings can make your life on campus that much easier. 4. Get tech savvy If it's been a while since you've been in a classroom, there's a good chance you'll need to brush up on your technical skills. These days, education makes good use of technology. Some courses, like Heather's, are available entirely online – an option she said she wouldn't have been able to go back to school without. "I would feel too guilty leaving my kids at home," said Heather. "Being able to do my courses online allows me to continue my education and still see my family." Even if you already use computers on a daily basis, learning a few new skills can help ensure you make the grade. Heather's "refresher" courses in technology and writing eased her return to school. Many schools offer free training courses for mature students who need a little extra help in these departments. 5. Set aside study time Between balancing work, a relationship, keeping the house in order, soccer practices, ballet recitals and swim lessons you can hardly find a minute to organize your own thoughts. How will you manage to add school to your already busy schedule? Heather jokes that she has zero social life anymore, but it's no laughing matter. You'll need to prioritize your activities and utilize little pockets of time effectively. In Heather's case, that means doing schoolwork on breaks at work and at baseball practices. "I'll sit down and do my homework alongside my kids," says Heather. "You're building time with them and showing them the value of a lifelong journey through education." Making the extra time to study might mean that you'll miss the latest episode of your favourite show or that your spouse will have to prepare dinner for the brood more often but, like you tell your children, the small sacrifices pay off in good grades. While it isn't by any means a short-term commitment, going back to school can be a life-changing decision for the better. No matter your age or how long it's been since you've set foot in a classroom it's never too late to continue your education. So grab your notebooks and take that first step – you'll be glad you did!