Money & Career

Overcome your excuses and go back to school as an adult

Getty Images Image by: Getty Images Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

Overcome your excuses and go back to school as an adult

Many of us have considered going back to college or university for continuing education but have been discouraged by thoughts of overwhelming schedules, impossible assignments and classrooms filled with young people we just don't fit in with. The truth is that adult education has come a long way to suit the needs of those who are coming back to the classroom later in life. We spoke to Marie Bountrogianni, dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University in Toronto, to demystify some of the most common excuses people have about going back to school, and prove it's never too late.

Excuse 1: You don't have the time.
"Everyone is busy these days," says Bountrogianni. Adult students tend to have more responsibilities, such as kids and full-time jobs. Luckily, continuing education can be very flexible to suit busy schedules. Evening and weekend courses are common for adult learning, and online courses mean you don't even need to leave home so there's no need to get childcare. Bountrogianni says many continuing education instructors also work in their fields outside of educational settings, so they understand the demands placed on adult students who are doing a double shift of school and work. "If, for example, an adult learner has an issue where they have to take an exam at a later date, there is understanding and flexibility."

Excuse 2: You don't have what it takes to try something new.
Many of us find ourselves faced with a fear of change, and starting school after being in the workforce for years can be particularly scary. "For people who have had the same position at the same organization for decades, getting an education in order to leave that job could be adding to the dauntingness of the decision," says Bountrogianni. But getting back in a classroom is good for your self-esteem and can give you the confidence you need when applying to a new job. "Even if, in the end, you decide you're going to stay in the position you have, advancing your skills will help you with that position too," explains Bountrogianni. "You never really lose in advancing your skills."

Excuse 3: You'll feel out of place among younger students.
When you head back to a college or university campus, chances are you will find quite a few 20-somethings in your midst, but you'll hardly be alone as a mature student. "About half the Canadian adult population goes into further education," says Bountrogianni. And some schools have programs specially designed for people over 50, so if you fit that age category, you could actually find yourself surrounded entirely by people your own age. "When you walk around campus," says Bountrogianni, "you see people from all walks of life—all ages, all cultures, all ability levels. It's wonderful."

Excuse 4: You don't need to learn anything new.
If you're happy with where you are in your career, you might wonder what the point of continuing your education is. For one thing, there are a lot of courses offered today that probably weren't available when you were in school. But there are also a lot of personal benefits to learning later in life. Bountrogianni notes the benefits of meeting new people with similar interests, developing new hobbies and keeping your mind sharp. A European history course might enhance your experience of travelling through Europe in retirement, while learning a second language is proven to ward off dementia by keeping the mind challenged.

Excuse 5: You might not be able to keep up.
When you haven't been in a classroom for decades, the idea of tests and homework can seem overwhelming, but schools are designed to help you learn in whatever way you need, so tutors, career advisors and counsellors are available to help you if you feel lost or like you're falling behind. And you're unlikely to find huge class sizes when it comes to continuing education, so you'll benefit from more one-on-one time with your instructor.

Excuse 6: You won't know how to learn in a modern classroom.
It's true that classrooms have changed, admits Bountrogianni. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. You should expect to see everyone in class with a laptop or tablet, and different online tools might be used to facilitate classes. While the change in tools might seem scary, these aren't insurmountable changes and challenging yourself to adapt to them will benefit you. "If you really want to update your skills, you should know the technology," says Bountrogianni.

Excuse 7: You can get all the education you need on the job.
Some people passed up post-secondary education in their earlier years because they didn't see the benefit of lecture-style learning and opted for a hands-on approach. But in the past several years, higher education teaching styles have changed. Bountrogianni explains that computers and hands-on projects have revolutionized classrooms. "There is more group work, there is more individual work and there are different modes of teaching," she says. And since fewer companies are offering on-the-job training, hands-on experience at a school is sometimes a best option for learning.

Not ready to take the plunge? Check out five ways to expand your mind without stepping foot in a classroom. 


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Money & Career

Overcome your excuses and go back to school as an adult