By Beverly Stewart, M.Ed. Article appearing in the Community News September 2008 Education Supplement

If you are one of the millions of adults who are continuing their education, congratulations!

It takes courage to return to the classroom after a long absence, but the rewards—monetary, intellectual and emotional—will be worth it. The transition might be a little bumpy at times, but your wisdom and determination can see you through.

Don’t be fooled by the youthful looks of those around you. There are plenty of adult students out there just like you. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that adults over age 25 make up 37 percent of the college population. Seek out other students who share your situation so you can help and encourage each other.

Many older students are attending school while continuing to work and raise families. If that is your situation, keep your course load reasonable. It is wise to begin with just one course. Focus and be successful, and you can try two courses the next semester. It’s much better to ease your way back than to get in over your head and give up quickly.

Online courses might seem like the most convenient option for a working adult, but consider carefully if you are enough of a self-starter to remain disciplined about the course. It’s much easier to blow off your computer than it is to skip class. And for many people, the classroom environment and interaction with the instructor and other learners is invaluable.

If you have been doing the lion’s share of the work at home, talk to your spouse, children and other family members about how that work can be delegated. Let them know how much it means to you that they support your educational goals. Remember, too, that learning to cook, do laundry and perform other household tasks are valuable life skills for your children.

The myriad demands on your time mean that you will have to use your study time efficiently. Get a calendar and map out your class meeting and study times, assignment due dates, and tests so that you can stay on top of deadlines. Break up major assignments into incremental goals that are less overwhelming. The same strategy works with studying: it is easier to learn material in smaller chunks.

A study skills course can help you learn, or relearn, how to read for meaning, take notes at a lecture, memorize, set realistic goals, outline material, and prepare for and take tests. It can also help with time management and organizational skills. Check to see if your school offers instruction in study skills. You might also consider hiring a private tutor who can help you to brush up on your skills and give you the confidence you might be lacking.

Many schools have writing centers where students can get help in learning to write essays and research papers. Library research tools might have changed significantly since the last time you researched a paper, so see if your library offers familiarization tours and instruction. Ask your college counselor what other sources of help are available to you.

Set aside time for regular study and stick to your plan. Many adults find it easiest to study outside the home, away from its many distractions. Try the school library or another quiet setting local. Consider organizing a study group with classmates. Don’t worry if the other members of your study group are younger than you. You have as much to offer as they do—maybe more.

Instructors often comment that older, nontraditional students bring a richness of insight and life experience to the classroom. Recognize that although you might be a little rusty when you first return to school, with time and a little help you can adjust. And you will reach your educational goals.

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Beverly Stewart, M.Ed.

Beverly Stewart, M.Ed. is President and Director of Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc., an area leader in 1-on-1 tutoring and test prep for children and adults, and translating/interpreting since 1985. In addition, Back to Basics is a Department of Education approved 1-on-1 Private School for K-12, as well as a Business and Trade School for ages 16+.
Email Beverly at, call her at (302)594-0754 or visit on the web at or

Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc. is located on 6 Stone Hill Road, Wilmington.

Beverly Stewart inducted to Hall of Fame of Delaware Women