A Guide Book for Adults Returning to College: Balancing School, Work and Family

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In this post, we will discuss how returning students’ needs differ from that of an 18 year old student. How does one balance their personal life, social life and college life?

If you have a full time job or a family, returning to school can incredibly taxing. It requires multitasking. You have different needs from that of a younger college student. Your lifestyle is different. Make a schedule around your life depending on what works for you. If you have a full time job, begin with one or two classes. You will be busy but you can still have time for self and family. You’ll just have to learn how to manage that time.

While you don’t have to completely sacrifice your personal and social life, you will have to learn how and when to say ‘no.” You will not be able to make it to every social event or family dinners. You will be less available so choose when to say no.

Commuting could be a challenge as well. While most college students live on campus, older students have to commute. Make sure that you can manage your time. Riding the train or bus can be a valuable time to read or catch up on studying. Make use of that time.  If you have to commute a long distance, schedule your classes so that you don’t have to go to campus every day; try to schedule your classes in one or two days.

Talk to your professors. Let them know your situation and take advantage of their office hours to ask questions to help you keep up with the class. You’d be surprised at how receptive your professors can be to your situation and maintaining a relationship with them will be a great help for you.


I spoke with Danielle, a thirty five year old student and a mom with three kids.  She says that balancing her time is by far the most difficult aspect of being a full time student, a full time mom and wife.

“There are times when I spend too much time on my work, and other times when I neglect my work to spend time with my family.  Unfortunately, no matter what I am doing- whether it is finally getting ahead in my studies or having some fun family time, I am always plagued by guilt.”


Danielle is learning how to take it one day at a time. The beginning was challenging but she is adjusting. She says that when she is in school, she is completely immersed in her studies, and when she is at home, she devotes herself to her family. During midterms and finals, she makes school her number one priority and has finally accepted this as not being a bad thing, but as necessary at the moment.

“When it comes to balancing time, I’ve accepted my limits. There is only 24 hours in a day and only so much that I can do. If I have a paper due, the dishes in the sink can wait. And there have been times when I’ve regretfully declined invitations to family gatherings because I’ve had to study for an exam.”



By Rona Ramjas

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