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How to Prepare to Be a Nontraditional College Student

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Going to college as an adult can mean a lot of big changes in your lifestyle. How to prepare for those changes will vary a lot based on your individual situation, but below are some of the areas you should consider.

Goal Setting

This entire venture will go more smoothly if you are clear about your goals. What do you hope to get out of going to school and getting your degree? What are your smaller goals for each school year or semester? The practice of writing these goals down and checking back regularly to make sure you're on track can help keep you focused and motivated.

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One of the biggest worries you may have regarding going to college at any age is what it will cost. Fortunately, there is help. You can find out how much federal aid you are eligible for, including loans, but it's possible that you might not have to borrow any money at all if you can put together enough in scholarships and grants. Signing up for a free search and application platform will allow you to create a profile and get personalized recommendations that will point you to the scholarships and grants that match what you are looking for. A site like Going Merry college scholarships can also help with the application process.


Who are the people that you are closest to? This might be your friends or your family, including your children. You will need to think about how your return to college will affect them and how you can better prepare them for it. How you approach this will vary a great deal depending on who they are. 

If you are a parent, one of the common challenges of parents returning to school is managing their feelings with this new normal. And your kids will need a different kind of preparation than if you are someone with a roommate. If you have a partner, they may need to understand that you'll have less time to spend with them. They may also need to take over more household responsibilities, including child care. Teenagers can pitch in as well with some chores and errands. Whoever you live with, you will need to establish some boundaries so that they give you the space that you need to do schoolwork.

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If you are working either full or part time while you're in school, you will need to be very organized and intentional. You also need to make sure that time spent on your education does not have a negative impact on your coworkers. If you have a family, you will need to work around their schedule as well. While they should take steps to help support you, you also want to make sure that you schedule time to see your children and your partner. 

You may want to look into options that will allow you to fit classes more easily into your days, such as perhaps taking some online or hybrid classes so that you don't have to go to campus every single day. Finding a good time management or calendar scheduling platform that works for you is also important. At the start of every semester, be sure that you read over the syllabus and know what your deadlines are.