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Challenge: Follow Your Dreams

The Challenge of Going Back To School

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We live in a world that all but requires us to have an advanced education in order to live the “American Dream.” As a mother, I want nothing more than my children to have a good education early on, because when they wait too long, going back to school is incredibly challenging.

I know this because I’ve witnessed those challenges through the eyes of my best friend.

Her eldest son complained about having severe headaches because he was under so much pressure – he was at the top of his class and a great soccer player.

The pressure he was under all came to a head when he had such a horrible headache before the biggest game of the season and he just couldn’t play.

Sadly, he isn’t the only soccer player to experience such stress. In fact, 20% of soccer players experience high levels of stress before and even after games.

My friend took her son to the doctors to figure out how to help him. Nothing worked – except for acupuncture.

Seeing how much the acupuncture helped her son, she decided she wanted to go back to school and become a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine. In her mind, she figured there were many others in her community who could benefit from acupuncture without traveling long distances to find a licensed doctor.

Challenges Adult Students Face Going Back to School

As a good friend, I encouraged her to go back to school and fulfill her dreams. She wasn't convinced, so I started sharing with her a ton of resources and statistics on the benefits of moms going back to school, such as women with graduate degrees earn $1.1 million more over a lifetime than those with just a high school diploma.

After awhile, she eventually gave in. But she was nervous.

She’s a very smart woman and we both thought it wouldn’t be that difficult. Unfortunately, we were wrong.

Apparently, there’s a big difference between going to university after high school and going to university as an adult!

Of the 20.4 million students who enroll in higher education, she isn’t alone in experiencing these challenges. Approximately 1 million of those students were over 25 years old (like my friend), and they experienced a multitude of road blocks.

1. Finding Balance

Any adult student of higher education can tell you that trying to keep up with your course work and still maintaining your obligations is hard. Although my friend wasn’t a single mother, she still had a full time job and small children to look after.

Fortunately, she had an incredible support system she could lean on. When she had an important exam to study for, or needed to finish a project, her husband and eldest son helped take care of the housework and the younger children.

Now, I won’t lie to you and say she managed to maintain the balancing act without losing her mind a little. She was stressed out and everyone around her could feel the pressure she was under. However, she did her best to maintain a healthy balance of school work and family responsibilities, which is one key to getting through schooling.

2. Financial Burden

Going back to school as an adult usually means that financial aid may not be a viable option. In fact, money is one of the biggest reasons why adults don’t go back to school. 81% of survey participants reported tuition and fees were a big hurdle standing in their way. Three quarters of them said they needed help trying to figure out where that extra money would come from in order to pay for college.

Just imagine if the whole country embraced the Tennessee governor’s plan to make community college tuition free for adults. Governor Bill Haslam made this possible by expanding the Tennessee Promise scholarship model and the program now allows adults who do not already have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to enroll in community college for free, starting the 2018 fall semester.

Check to see if you live in a state with similar laws or programs that can help ease the financial burden of going back to school.

3. Accessibility

Many adult students will face the challenge of making it to class on time, if at all. Class times change from semester to semester, and sometimes the student’s work schedule isn’t flexible enough to accommodate. Let’s not forget about life’s emergencies and taking care of a family as well.

I remember one semester my friend’s little girl got hurt and she had to leave in the middle of the final to go to the hospital. Fortunately, her professor was understanding and allowed her to take the exam at a later date, but professors aren’t obligated to make those concessions.

Luckily, there are a great number of accredited online schools that can help make your dreams of going back to school a reality.

In an article on USA Today College, in the 2010 fall term, more than 6.1 million students were enrolled in at least one online class. As you can imagine, online learning is much more flexible for students with families, jobs, and other obligations.


Just because you’re an adult that doesn’t mean obtaining a degree is out of reach. Life happens and you may not be ready to go to school right after high school. It’s understandable. However, don’t let that stand in the way of your dreams. It’s never too late to go back. Just be prepared for the challenges you may face along the way.

As a tip from me to you, make sure you have a stellar support system in place before enrolling. You’ll be so grateful you have people to lean on when you’re stressed out, or who can help take care of the house or children when you’re busy studying for an exam.

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