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Adult Learners: Inspirational Stories by and for Nontraditional Students

Updated on April 12, 2007

22 Essays From Adult Learners, For Adult Learners

Nontraditional students from around the country are featured in this anthology.
Nontraditional students from around the country are featured in this anthology.

Adult Learners: A Growing Trend in Higher Education

This hub is dedicated to adult learners, or those who are beginning school or returning to the classroom a little later in life. An adult learner is typically defined as someone over the age of 25 who is attending a post-secondary institution.

The words below, excerpted from essays in this book, perhaps best describe the adult learner demographic:

"Some are single, some are married, some have kids, some do not, some are twenty-four, some are sixty-four...We are not straight out of high school living four more years of playfulness...some of us are in college to improve our future or the future of our children, many of us are changing an academic legacy by being the first in our families to graduate from college. Others are starting again after military service or making a new path out of a dead-end job or relationship..."

"...I was tired of having spaghetti every night...sick of living in a dump of an apartment. The thought of having children was out of the question. I couldn't believe this was my life. An education was the only way to change that."

"...Hearing those phrases "It's a girl" and "You may now kiss the bride" made me think, "I am now a wife and a mother...never again a student"."

"The desks sure hadn't changed, but in the past 20 years, I sure had."

Non-traditional students face challenges well beyond academia. In the anthology, "Kids, Have You Seen My Backpack," adult learners share their personal journeys through essays about returning to the classroom later in life. Facing fears, overcoming obstacles, to graduation day, the 22 stories in this book could inspire anyone considering their own education endeavor.

The above quotes were taken from various essays from the book and pretty much explain what the concept of the book is. With the advent of outsourcing, many folks are losing their jobs.

That said, adult education has hit a boom in both trade schools and traditional colleges.

Tips for Adult Learners

As an admissions representative at a career school, I can offer some tips on how to succeed in the classroom.

Rally the Troops

I don't want to start on a negative note, so I am including a positive bullet before I get into the naysayers. When an adult learner begins their educational journey, it is important to find a support network. Are there people who will help with chores? Childcare? Transportation? Going to school is an investment and a time commitment, so sometimes there needs to be literal help with things, as well as emotional support.

Remove Negative Support

From my experience, the hardest obstacle to overcome when returning to school is facing those who say negative things about the decision to go to school. I've heard things like, "You're too stupid," "You are too old," "You'll never be able to do that!" and "Are you crazy?!" There is nothing that hurts an admissions representative like than enrolling someone in school, only to never see them start. Oftentimes I get excuses -- not reasons-- like a lack of childcare or a change in a job schedule. After years of experience, I can tell when they are hiding, perhaps defending someone who talked them out of this very important decision.

Sometimes these naysayers are those close to us, and therefore we can't totally remove them. However, to succeed in school and achieving dreams and goals, one must surround themselves with positive people, perhaps fellow classmates or other mentors.

In April Koch's essay in my book, she talks about an abusive husband (who she eventually left) who went as far as turning the TV up load so she couldn't concentrate on her homework or demanding she make dinner or do housework before anything school related was started. She pushed on.

Learn Your Learning Style

The best way to ensure success in the classroom for any type of student is to define their learning style. We often here of students in high school whose perfomance leaves a lot to be desired. Then all of a sudden the next year they do well in the same subject. So many teachers teach to one type of student. Thankfully, programs which cater to adult learners already take these needs into consideration. But, establishing if someone is a visual learner, and auditory learner or a combination can allow them to seek out the best notetaking and studying skills possible to score that 4.0.

Movies About School

Leave a note or a piece of advice for an adult learner!

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    • U.S Veteran profile image

      U.S Veteran 

      10 years ago

    • mgwhite profile image

      Mary White 

      10 years ago from Mobile, AL

      What makes the difference with nontraditional adult learners is interest and motivation. Many people who are not successful in traditional K-12 education are very successful in career-oriented education programs that focus on their own interests and motivators. (I have career school experience too!)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Bravo! The Negative Suppport paragraph is certainly correct. I taught GED and adult college prep style courses for 11 years. We changed a lot of lives and found a lot of gold in adult learners.

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