Tips to help adult learners stay on track when going back to school

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If you’re in the process of going back to school as an adult, you already know how hard it can be to stay motivated. Between your job and family, not to mention the one thousand other responsibilities you have, it might be easy to put school on the back burner. 

Tapping back into motivation as an adult can be tricky. We’re no longer driven by the idealism of our youth (at least in most cases) because we already understand the hard realities we face. Paying bills, keeping a roof over our heads, making sure our families are taken care of. 

But there are things you can do to keep yourself on track. Here are just a few ways to stay motivated to keep on top of your classes even when life gets in the way.

Remember why you went back

When you have a million other things going on, it’s easy to forget why you decided to go back to school. Chances are you did it for a great reason. 

When things get rough, and you’re contemplating skipping class or missing an assignment, remember what that reason was. Whether it’s increasing your salary or making a much-needed career switch — keeping that initial goal in mind is a big help. 

In fact, if you haven’t already, it might be a good time to write out your goals. Put the most significant reasons on top and remind yourself how continuing your education will get you there. 

It’s easy to lose sight of why we’re doing something when the initial excitement wears off. Make it a point to keep reminding yourself. 

Try to learn what keeps you motivated

Think about what motivates you. Success? Checking something off your list? Having a diploma in hand?

For some of us, career advancement is a huge motivation. Or maybe it’s being able to provide more for our family and give them more opportunities. Whatever that is for you, don’t forget to tap into it when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

How is this going to tick that box for you? Write it down. Shout it from the rooftops. Tell a friend so they can remind you and hold you accountable.

Calendar your days and weeks

At the beginning of the semester, fill in your calendar. Put your work, classes, and family responsibilities all in one place. Give yourself an overview of what you’re next few months will look like.

This might seem incredibly overwhelming, but it can be a big help. If you’re looking at a crazy week, don’t schedule anything else that might drain your motivation to get work done. 

If you have to, factor in study time as well. It will remind you of the additional commitment you need to give to your classes, and hopefully, keep you from overscheduling yourself. 

Use the resources available to you

If you’re feeling a serious drop in motivation, reach out to one of your professors or a school counselor. Ask how you can make things easier on yourself next semester or what you can do to get ahead on your assignments.

If there’s something you need to be successful while in school, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for it. Even if the answer is no, you’ve at least had a conversation with someone that now understands your unique struggle.

School counselors and professors are there to help you succeed. They’re your best resource when you’re feeling overwhelmed and under-motivated. Use them whenever you can. 

Have someone to lean on

It doesn’t matter if it’s your partner or your best friend. Having someone that knows how to motivate you and why you’re working towards your goals is a big help. Especially when things get hard. 

If you have a bad day or week, schedule time with them so you can talk it through. This should be someone that shines a positive influence on your life. Someone that knows how much this means to you and encourages you every step of the way.

On bad days and busy weeks, this type of emotional support can make all the difference. 

Reaching your goals is one of the biggest reasons you likely decided to go back to school. As you navigate this chaotic time, keep those goals in mind. There’s nothing more motivating than that rush of happiness you get when you finally check that goal off your list.