Three Tips for the Older College Students

You may think you’ve heard every piece of advice out there for freshmen, but the odds are that you are wrong.

Bookshelves are seen at the new Textbook Rental Service building on the Eastern Illinois University campus Monday, Aug. 9, 2010, in Charleston, Ill. Photo: EIU/Flickr

Welcome to college. You may think you’ve heard every piece of advice out there for freshmen, but the odds are that you are wrong.

Usually it’s just the same five pieces of advice repeated over and over again, and none of it is particularly relevant to someone who’s not eighteen and moving directly into the dorms from his parents’ house.

You’re not decorating a dorm room and you’re not sharing a bathroom. You’re just trying to get in and get back into the workforce, and hopefully enjoy a few classes along the way.

Use Your Resources

The best way to make the most of your time back on campus is to be sure you’re taking advantage of all the resources available to you. Odds are that you have an adviser in your department; talk to that person and make sure you’ve got your classes laid out in an efficient manner.

If you have questions about your financial aid or forms you’re not sure how to fill out, go down to the financial aid office and speak to an actual person. Many schools also have an office of continuing education or non-traditional students who is there specifically to help you with the challenges unique to your position.

Don’t Pay Full Price

You probably know that you should buy used textbooks instead of new ones at the college bookstore, but you can save even more money by shopping elsewhere. Many classes, especially those in liberal arts, use regular books instead of fancy, expensive textbooks.

By shopping at local used bookstores or online, you may be able to find these books for much less. If you’re taking a math or science class with a required text, consider looking online for previous editions.

You can check with your professor to make sure the questions haven’t changed, but most of the time you’ll be just fine with the previous edition and only pay a fraction for it. If your budget is even tighter, ask your professor if he or she has a loaner copy, or check out the library.

Appreciate Your Campus

Speaking of the library, you’re going to want to make it your new best friend. It can be tempting to hurry off campus as soon as you’re done for the day. You want to get home to your family, that’s understandable. But it’s harder than you think to get your homework done at home.

Your spouse wants the laundry done, your kids want dinner, and suddenly it’s almost midnight and you have a paper due tomorrow that you haven’t even started yet. That extra hour or two spent in the library, whether it’s doing research the old-fashioned way or using the computers to pull up academic articles and write your papers, can make all the difference between a frustrating and a successful semester. You’re doing this for your family, after all; they’ll understand that you need to do it right.

Going back to school can be overwhelming, but in the end it will be a source of immense satisfaction for you. Whether you’re moving into a new career or picking up the certifications and skills to stay current in your field, taking advantage of your time in school can make you a better employee in the future.

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