By Sarah Wright
1. Make the Time
If you've already got a full plate, finding room for study time is going to be a challenge. But in order to get the most out of school, you're going to have to take the time to reinforce what you learn in class. Take a look at your schedule and identify times that afford you the opportunity to be focused, quiet and solitary. Those times should be seen as prime study opportunities. You might have to shuffle some things around to make this possible, but it should be at the top of your priority list. If you don't study (and do homework), you aren't taking full advantage of the educational opportunities you're paying for.
2. Schedule Everything
As an adult, you're probably used to sticking to a schedule. Both your work and your personal life likely requires you to get certain things done on a certain timeline. School is no exception. Make sure you include your school schedule in the same appointment book, calendar, app or list that you keep all your other important dates squared away. Seeing a test in the same light as you see a mortgage payment deadline might help you avoid putting school on the back burner. If you have a really hectic schedule, you might even want to schedule study times rather than assuming you'll be able to hit the books when you get home in the evening.
3. Make Your Situation Known
Professors are likely to be a lot more sympathetic toward nontraditional students with valid concerns like jobs and family than they are of run-of-the-mill undergraduate hijinks. Of course, not all professors are going to be saintly, and there's a definite line of impropriety you can cross in asking for understanding, but it might end up being worth a shot in the long run.
At the beginning of the semester, introduce yourself to your professor and explain your situation. Ask if he or she would be willing to let you record lectures so you can, say, listen to them in the car while you're going to pick your kids up from school. If you know that there are going to be days when you just can't make it to class, ask your professor if he or she has any lecture notes, and if they have any suggestions for how you might be able to make up the content that you missed.
4. Use the Buddy System
Even if your professor is understanding, it still helps to have a study buddy in class with you. Study buddies are a great idea, because you're accountable to someone other than yourself. If you make an appointment to study with someone, you'd better keep it, or they'll be moving on to a different partner. Plus, studying with someone else can help you flesh out your understanding of what's going on in class.
5. Make Study Time a Family Event
If you have kids who are also in school, you can lead by example and show them how important it is to study. You can try to schedule a group family study session as well. Though they probably aren't in your classes, you can treat your kids as study buddies by having them help you quiz yourself for tests. This might be difficult if you've got a big family with multiple schedules to juggle, but this might also be a situation in which it's extra important to make sure both you and your kids are doing what needs to be done for school.
These additional tips for returning students should help you successfully get back into school mode.