“Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.” John Maxwell
The landscape of our society has changed drastically, and we are becoming more and more of a global society with each passing year. In recent years, there has been an ongoing debate about the importance of having a college degree. Despite this debate, there are statistics that support and justify obtaining an advanced degree.
The National Center for Education Statistics provides research that supports the fact that an individual with a college degree earns approximately 74% more than a high school graduate. According to their research, in 2012 the median earnings for a person with a Bachelor’s Degree was $46,900 while the median income was $22,900 for those without a high school diploma and $30,00 for those with a high school diploma.
I believe that the numbers speak for themselves and even without the numbers, many people understand the significance of obtaining higher education in today’s society. We just do not live in the same society that we did 10-20 years ago. The types of jobs that our mother and fathers worked for 20+ years no longer exist.
In the wake of this reality, there are a large number of adults who understand the importance of obtaining a college degree. However, they face many obstacles and challenges in attempting to make this dream a reality in their lives.
First and foremost, I want you to know that I understand those challenges firsthand. I am a single mother of four children who understood just how important it was for my family that I obtain my college degree. Was it easy? I am sure you already know the answer to that question: by no means whatsoever.
One of the main challenges that I hear many adult students voice and that I faced personally is that of time management. As an educator for adult students, I also witness first hand many students who find it difficult to manage their time. As I am sure you know, time management is vital to being successful as a college student.
Adult learners have many different responsibilities in addition to completing their college degree. Most adult students work full time, have family obligations and have additional obligations outside of work and family. Juggling an overloaded schedule requires effective time management skills to achieve academic success as an adult college student.
I want to take some time to share you with some tips that really helped me to overcome the barrier of time and eventually obtain my doctoral degree:
1. Know Your Priorities: This is all about knowing what requires your time on a daily basis and effectively prioritizing those things. One thing that I had to learn is that everyone has the same 24 hours within a day. Some people are just much more effective at managing that 24 hours than others. In order to properly manage your time, you will have to categorize your priorities on a daily basis. Ask yourself, “what is a must on today?” There are some things that must be completed within your 24 hour period and there are some things that YOU just want to complete. Know the difference between the two and categorize them properly. This will help keep you on track on a daily basis. Each day is different and must be managed as such. Most importantly, don’t allow your time to manage you. Manage your time!
2. Know Your Self: This may sound somewhat silly, but it is worth taking the time to consider. Do you really know yourself? When are you at your best? For me, I always did my best work after 9p.m. I consider myself to be a night owl, and my mind is much clearer at night. On the other hand, some people are great in the morning. They prefer to rise early, and they do their best thinking in the morning. The bottom line is that if you know exactly how you tick, you can use that to your advantage. Take time and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and use that information to assist you in achieving your academic goals.
3. Set Goals: I love the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I believe that this is so true. You must set goals for yourself. How can you measure your success if you have not created some type of road map to measure against? Many people know what they want in their heads, but they have not taken the time to write those things down. Set daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals. You should have short-term goals and long-terms goals. Be sure to follow the S.M.A.R.T. goal method to ensure that you are able to reach the goals you are setting for yourself.
4. Lean On Your Support System: I believe that this is critical in being successful as an adult student. The research that I conducted on academic success and persistence among first generation students for my doctoral program also bears out the importance of a support system. Who is your support system? Once you have identified your support system, make them an integral part of your academic journey. If you have children, help them to understand the importance of completing your degree program. Once they understand, make sure you have their buy-in. What can they assist you with that will free up some of your time? If you are married, get the buy-in of your spouse. How can he/she assist you in completing your goals? Do you have friends that can support you by maybe babysitting while you do homework or while you attend class? Sit down and make a list of those who are in your support system and how they can become a part of helping you to achieve academic success.
5. Take Care of Yourself: This may be another area that you feel may go without saying. However, I know just how easy it is to become engrossed in achieving the goals that you have set for yourself and forget about yourself. Again, adult students have so many different responsibilities and sometimes they can become just plain overwhelming. If you are not careful, you will find yourself being burned out and no good for anybody. You cannot achieve success at the expense of your health. This again means knowing yourself and knowing when you have reached your limits. Develop an exercise regimen, eat right, take breaks when you need them, spend time with those you love, etc. For me, it would sometimes mean just getting away from everything and everybody and taking a long walk or just sitting down at my favorite coffee shop by myself. Whatever your thing is, be sure to take care of yourself!
6. Use Your Resources: I have come to find out as an advisor and an adult educator that many times students fail to use their resources properly. This causes so many students to lose out on valuable time. There are many issues that can be solved by simply pulling on the right people. This may mean calling your academic advisor and talking to him/her about a problem that you can see no way around. It may mean coming in early or staying late to speak with your instructor about an assignment that is just driving you crazy. This could take so many shapes and forms. The bottom line is to realize that as an adult student, you don’t have to solve every problem that comes your way by yourself. There is nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. You will find that by doing so, you will save yourself so much time and energy!
7. Remember your “Why”: I believe that this may be the most important out of all the other tips that I have provided. If you want to be successful as an adult student, you must remember your “why”. Why are you doing what you are doing? Why have you decided to take on yet another challenge in spite of all your other obligations in life? This helped me through so many of the challenges and struggles that I faced as an adult student. I would always remind myself that I was not just doing it for myself. I had children who needed to see me achieve success and who’s lives would be forever changed because of my sacrifice. When all else fails, remember your “why.”