Family and Friend Matters

Freinds-FamilyAdult students often enter the college environment anxious and uncertain about their ability to succeed and compete successfully with more traditional students. Current research tells us that adult students are typically more successful than younger students because of their maturity and the experience that they bring to the classroom. Adults are likely to exhibit high levels of motivation, more specific occupational goals, and an uncompromising desire to get the most education possible for the money.

However, transitioning does not happen overnight. It takes time. We encourage you to participate in Welcome Week adult-focused events (campus tours, meeting fellow students, community service opportunities), attend the involvement fairs, talk with people sitting next to you in classes and to take advantage of the course instructor’s office hours. Introduce yourself.

Academic expectations should be realistic. As a general rule, plan to spend two hours outside the classroom for each credit hour that you are enrolled in. For example, you should plan on spending approximately six hours per week preparing for class, responding to assignments, reading material, etc., for each three-credit class you have. It may take a couple of semesters as well as different types of class formats to determine how much time you will need for each class. To prepare for your college experience become familiar with Webmail and Microsoft Office software,  including Word, Access, Excel and Powerpoint.

College can cause a roller coaster of emotions. One minute you may feel like the only person who does not feel at home at Penn State and the next minute you never want the experience to end. Find a mentor. Visit the Adult Learners Program and Services Office  in 210 Boucke Building. All students need a sounding board and a sympathetic ear to work through frustrations. Juggling multiple roles will become even more challenging. You have taken on an additional role to that of parent, husband/wife, son/daughter, worker, veteran, neighbor, friend, and caregiver. This additional role of student will affect each of the other roles. The patience and understanding of everybody involved will be required.

Coping with relationship stress may pose a stressor. Allow your family, partner, spouse or kids to be as much a part of your academic life as possible. Be prepared to carve out space you will need for coursework and academic pursuits.

If you seem overwhelmed or experience serious emotional distress  or anxiety, seek assistance. Counseling and Psychological Services  (CAPS) is a resource that provides support, assistance, and referral for long-term counseling. All family members are encouraged to visit the outreach website created by CAPS to assist family members to help students cope with important emotional health matters. Watch for free seminars offered by CAPS.

Have family conferences regarding finances. It is important to discuss financial expectations with family so that you all understand how much money will be available. Additionally, be sure to talk about responsible credit card usage. Credit card companies view students to be a good risk and will often send students credit card applications. As credit card debt has serious consequences, it is important to be aware of annual fees, interest rates, and effects on the family budget.


Get Involved

Students who are involved in out-of-class activities make friends more quickly and feel a greater sense of satisfaction with their college experience than those who do not. Engaging in co-curricular activities also presents you with opportunities to enhance your leadership skills, decision-making ability, time management skills, and ability to work in teams.

Get to Know Others

Interacting with at least one faculty or staff member outside of class makes you feel more comfortable in your new environment and more acclimated to college.

Consider Academic Responsibilities to be a Full-Time Job

Developing sound time management and study skills may be challenging for you in your new role as a student. College course work tends to require you to engage in more self-directed study outside of the classroom and complete a higher volume of work. Research suggests that students that commit to a 30 to 40 hour academic week (hours in class + hours studying = 30–40 hours) tend to achieve more academic success then peers who do not put forth appropriate study time.

The World Campus site also offers valuable tips on Student Success

Adapted from Empowering parents of first-year college students: A guide for success by R.H. Mullendore and L. Banahan (2007).


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