I have been an academic adviser for more than 10 years. My specialty is working with non-traditional learners, mainly adult students. Based on U.S. Department of Education statistics, in 2014, approximately 20% of college/university enrollments were of students 25 and over. However of those students, only 30% will complete their degree. Why do adult students find it difficult to graduate?
Reason #1: Life gets in the way of accomplishing academic goals. Work and family obligations remain first priority for many students. Although for the majority of those students, improving their career opportunities and ensuring their family’s financial stability were the prime motivators for pursuing higher education.
Reason #2: Stress. Stress is everywhere. But without a functional support system to help keep students on track, earning a degree just adds wood to the fire. This feeling is heightened for adult learners who grew up hating school. I often hear, “Oh geez, I hate math” or “I’m a slow reader”.
Reason #3: Illness, whether self or a close relation, has a strong impact on one’s academic success. When hit with long-term illness or injury, adult learners overlook the aids institutions provide to assist students in maintaining successful academic enrollment; leave-of-absence, semester holds, incomplete status and more.
Reason #4: What they didn’t know. Few people actually read through the 40-100+ page student handbook before they sign the acceptance and receipt statement. The policies established by their institutions aren’t meant to hinder academic success, but rather keep it relevant. Many degrees have completion deadlines. Some have transfer credit restrictions. While others hold strict GPA requirements for core classes or financial aid! Unfortunately, when caught up in the rhythms of life, adult learners may find themselves stuck in such instances.
If YOU are embarking on such a journey, starting or reinstating your post-secondary endeavor, please seek the guidance of an academic adviser. Many colleges and universities provide them (sometimes mandatory) to active students, whether you are full-time or part-time. However, be aware that not all advisers are the same. In many cases, their job is to help you register for courses and locate campus resources and that’s all.
If you encounter difficulties beyond those instances, seek additional guidance. Consider a mentor or an outside professional, like myself. I have been peer reviewed and published with the National Academic Advising Association. I am an active member with the National Tutoring Association, a former contributor for the Association of University Women, and a certified holistic life coach.
I wish you success and prosperity in your 2015!