Learning How to Learn Again: Tips on Returning to School After a Hiatus

From serving in the military to starting a family to following a passion, there are many reasons you might experience an extended break from school. If you’re re-entering the world of academia after a hiatus, it’s normal for the transition to feel nerve-racking. You may be worried you’ve forgotten how to study properly or that you won’t fit in. In reality, you’ve probably attained useful new skills while away from school that will help you inside the classroom, and your professors and peers will admire your persistence. At the end of the day, managing the shift comes down to one big thing: preparation. Properly preparing yourself and your family will start you on the right track for accomplishing your educational goals. 
 
Before anything, it’s crucial that you prepare yourself for becoming a student again. Aaron Anderson, author of Engaging Resistance: How Ordinary People Successfully Champion Change
recommends heading back to school at a time when you can give it the attention it deserves. “Don’t be starting a family and buying a house or starting a new job at the same time you dive into a full-time program, because you can overload your capacity to handle transformational change all at once.” Anderson also advises resetting your expectations for downtime. If you spend a lot of time browsing online or watching TV, be ready to replace most of those hours with studying and homework. 
 
Once you’re mentally prepared, it’s a good idea to ease back into school if you’re able. This starts with recognizing what areas are potential weaknesses and seeking out “brush ups” like tutoring or community college classes. It’s also a good idea to take on only one class during your first semester back. And then, be patient with yourself. As Anderson says, “Give yourself a full semester to adjust, as it takes that long to experience one full course cycle and begin to get comfortable with settling b
ack into an academic mindset.”
 
Also, to make sure you’re re-entering school at the correct level, remember that DSST can help you earn college credit for anything you’ve learned on your own. It’s a valuable tool that can help save lots of hours and thousands of dollars as you work toward a degree.
 
Next up, make sure you set expectations with your friends and family. “You need them to understand why you may have to shift priorities away from time with them to spend it on assignments and studying, particularly around exam time,” says Anderson. As long as they know what to expect, your immediate family and close friends can all serve as a strong support system during the most intense stretches. Additionally, it can be very helpful to reach out to other students who are in the same program. They can offer insights on topics like time management, school/life balance, and more.
 
Last but certainly not least, take care of yourself. You will be in front of a screen for a lot of school-related work, so when you do need a break, it’s best to turn to a screen-free activity. Proper diet, sleep, and exercise will be more important than ever to keep you focused, energized, and positive as you power through your coursework. If you ever feel over-stressed, remember, you are not alone, and there are thousands of other adult students going through this journey too. You will get to that stage and hold that degree!
 
Research source: Colorado State University Online

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