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5 continuing education tips for retirees

December 16, 2015

Are you retired and considering continuing your education? Its becoming increasingly popular for adults to go back to school. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics found that in 2013, 22 percent of the students enrolled in an undergraduate school were at least 30 years old. 

Receiving an education can enrich your life in several ways and contribute to healthy aging. The tricky part is choosing the program thats right for you and adjusting to new responsibilities. Before you start classes, use these tips to ensure a smooth transition from the life of a retiree to that of a student.

1. Find the right fit With so many programs of study available, its essential that you take the time to select the school and program that cater best to your needs and goals. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, studies performed by the National Survey of Students in Continuing Education (NECS) have found that most adults who return to school choose their university and program based primarily on factors like affordability and where they are located in comparison to their homes. After youve decided which subjects youre passionate about and want to go to school for, select which of these factors are most important to you. Do you prioritize a reasonable tuition? Or maybe you want to participate in a program that offers evening classes so it doesnt interfere with your other daily activities. Asking yourself these questions will assist you in finding the right fit.

NECS research has also pointed to the fact that many adult students choose online learning programs instead of traditional schooling at an actual campus. If this interests you, there are free online college courses called massive open online courses, or MOOCs, that are taught by professors from reputable colleges. While most wont get you college credit, theyre a great tool to see if online learning is for you. However, youll have to do some soul searching and research. Your ultimate goal, whether its simply to take classes for fun to learn more about a topic of interest or to earn a degree, will determine what type of online class is best for you. 

Experiment with a free online learning class to see if you prefer going traditional schooling instead.
Experiment with a free online learning class to see if you prefer traditional schooling instead.

2. Know your learning style Everyone likes to learn in different ways. See how you like to learn and which study methods are most effective for you. This will assist you in deciding on a program and whether online or traditional schooling is the best match for you. For example, some people are visual learns who absorb information best through tools like videos and diagrams. Online learning could work particularly well if this applies to you. However, auditory learners like to hear things out loud and retain data better when its presented this way. Being in a classroom may be the best approach to learning if this is the case for you. When it comes to studying, recording lectures could also help. 

3. Embrace change through preparation You may remember what its like to have homework and study for exams from your previous years of education, but making the transition from life after work to one where you have classes and responsibilities you havent had in years takes preparation. There may be an activity here or there that you have to sacrifice to attend classes or get your work done. Let family and friends know that youll be taking a couple of classes so they understand that work may take up more of your time. This way they can also be there for support if you need someone to help you study or show you the ropes with a new computer program.

It may also be a good idea to brush up on your writing skills and make sure you have the tools to excel in your classes, such as a reliable laptop. If youre worried about getting stressed or overwhelmed by your work, remember why you decided to continue your education, whether it was to enrich your life or follow a passion. Do your best and have fun with it!

"Learning from others will enhance your experience."

4. Enjoy the social aspects One of the most rewarding parts of going to school is the friendships you make. Even if youve chosen online learning, youll probably have to communicate with your professor and members of your class regularly. Hearing and learning from peoples ideas and perspectives can enhance your experience and even impact the way you see and understand things. Participate in class and in study groups to allow your peers to enrich your education and the quality of your life. 

5. Share your experiences Depending on what type of educational program you choose, you may have a few younger students in your class, or you could be one of the only older adults. Either way, take advantage of your past experiences, including ones gained from your professional, educational and personal life. Keep in mind that you have a lot of wisdom to bring to the table -- share your experiences with classmates and use these experiences to help you succeed on exams as well. You may find that you have a lot more in common with the millennials in your class than you thought, sparking unexpected connections that otherwise would have never been made.