Earning a bachelor’s degree requires an investment of time, energy and money that is not for the fainthearted. Adult learners often juggle family obligations, jobs and financial responsibilities in addition to coursework.

Although mature students have more challenges than the typical college freshman, earning a degree in your 30s, 40s, or 50s is an achievable goal.

3 myths about adult learners attending school while working

  • Older adults don’t learn as quickly as 20-somethings. This myth is enshrined in the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It’s wrong. The brain’s ability to ability to form new neural pathways far into old age is called plasticity. You can learn as fast as someone many years your junior.
  • Adult learners are isolated. Not anymore! Online courses include discussion threads, group projects, interactive assignments and more. Many students develop offline friendships as well.
  • A mature student should stop with an associate degree since a bachelor’s degree takes too long. The fully online Regents Bachelor of Arts (RBA) degree program from West Virginia State University (WVSU) provides college credit for work and life experience as well as a generous transfer policy that means you can earn a bachelor’s degree on your schedule.

Characteristics of adult learners

When we talk about adult learners, we’re typically referring t0 students 30 to 50 years old. While these learners have the same capacity to acquire knowledge and skills as traditional students, they have different challenges and opportunities.

An adult learner is likely to: 

  • Support dependents. Adults in midlife often care for children, aging parents, or both.
  • Be a single parent. Juggling full-time childcare with work and school can be daunting.
  • Hold a full-time job. Many employers are enthusiastic and supportive of their employees pursuing higher education, but some jobs make school a special challenge.
  • Be financially independent. Unlike many traditional undergrads who rely on parents for support, adult learners are often on their own.
  • Attend school part time. Few mature students can afford the relative luxury of a traditional, full-time degree schedule. That’s OK since programs like the RBA degree program from West Virginia State University are designed for part-time students.
  • Require flexibility. Tending to the myriad of adult responsibilities can mean classwork gets done at non-peak hours, on breaks or during summer.
  • Prefer self-reliance and self-direction in their education. Learners who carry adult responsibilities often prefer to have a greater say in their studies than those who are coming to college immediately after high school.
  • Draw on their life experiences as a catalyst for learning. Not only can adult learners receive college credit for documented life experiences, they bring additional value into the classroom thanks to those experiences.
  • Are ready to learn and exhibit a goal-oriented attitude. Adult learners are making an investment and will put in the time to get results.
  • Respond positively to problem-based class assignments. If you haven’t been in school for several years, you may find that college classrooms are more interactive, project-centered and problem-based than in the past.

Does that describe you?

Learn more about how you can complete your degree on your time. The affordable, flexible online degree is designed for your busy life.

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What makes a successful adult learner?

Succeeding in college as an adult learner means commitment, strategic thinking, wise program selection and starting with an end goal in mind. Some tactics for prevailing as an adult learner include:

  • Choosing a format that coincides with your lifestyle. Distance learning is a great choice for most mature students. Online colleges in West Virginia and other states offer a growing list of bachelor’s degrees in a wide array of academic and practical fields. These internet-based programs make education flexible enough for parents, employees and caregivers to earn their bachelor’s degrees.
  • Finding a degree program that allows you to use work experience as credit. WVSU’s RBA degree offers credit for life experiences, which can reduce the overall 120 credits required for the degree and help students graduate in two years.
  • Picking a career-focused degree program that allows you to secure a new career or move up the ladder in your existing job. You’re more likely to finish your degree when you are focused on a clear goal for your career path.

Final thoughts

Choosing the right program is key to an adult learner’s success. WVSU’s Online RBA degree is one program designed to make sure mature students can easily transfer existing college credits, benefit from work experience, and pursue a flexible education online. Students can transfer up to 72 credit hours into the program and graduate in two to four years.

Contact West Virginia State University Online to learn more today!