Starting to study as an adult can be quite intimidating, but with some preparation, you can ensure the transition is smooth.
Three years ago I decided to go back to school after a ten-year break. Before that, I had completed a heap of short courses, distance education, and even a failed university attempt. So I was pretty confident that I knew what this whole education racket was about.
However, from the moment I started the application process, I felt overwhelmed. There were websites for so many different resources, specific requirements, financing applications, childcare arrangements, textbooks to purchase, courses to choose. Aaaahhhh!!! I almost gave it up.
The worst part was how difficult I found to adjust to online learning. Now, I think I am pretty IT savvy, so I was not expecting this at all. To be honest, those first few weeks put a huge dent in my self-confidence. Lucky for me, I had someone to ask for help and organization is a bit of an obsession of mine. To save you the worry I experienced, over the next few weeks I will give you all the tips, tricks, and apps I have discovered that can provide you with the edge you need to not only survive studying but to do it successfully too. To begin with, here are my six steps to starting studying.
1) Decide the type of learning schedule that is right for you.
You may have decided what you want to study, but have you considered how you want to learn? There are so many education methods, it is best to consider your personal requirements. Here are some questions you should ask yourself to figure out the learning schedule that is best for your needs.
- Do you learn better in your own space or with other students around you?
- Do you prefer to have face-to-face contact with your teachers or do you prefer interacting with people online?
- What responsibilities will you have to juggle along with your studies?
- For more questions to ask yourself, check out our article on how to tell if online learning is for you.
Personally, I prefer a mix of the two. I like short courses, around six months ideally, with both face-to-face and online components. CCI Training Center's hybrid programs are a good example of this. I like the practical experience lab work gives you, but I also want to be able to juggle studying with work and children. Night classes allow me to get the class time I want, while still being able to study further at my own pace. I find going into class also makes me more focused for my at home study as well.
Everyone is different. You need to be honest with yourself about how you learn best and make your decision from there. With face-to-face learning, you get more hands-on supervision from you instructors and more practical experience. Night classes are great for those who need to work full-time, while day classes can be perfect for parents who need to study while their kids are in school or daycare. You can do online study in your own time in your own space, so is easier to juggle than hybrid and on-campus education.
2) Collect all the information you need in the same spot.
It is so important to get a system for collecting all your education documents set up from the beginning. With everything online, it is so easy to lose your work or important information (trust me, I know this from personal experience). Buy yourself some stationary or find a note-taking app that you love, and collect everything you can in one place. Next week, I am going to look at note-taking techniques and give you a rundown on the apps available, such as OneNote, Google Keep and my personal favorite, Evernote.
Choose a cloud-based document storage service, such as Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive, and always save your documents straight to the cloud. I use Google Docs because you can work without saving and know that not only will it save every change you make, you can also go back and see previous versions if you need to. Save every bit of information for your study in the same location, so you always know where to get things when you need them.
Finally, explore the websites and course materials from your school. Collect all the information that is important to your studies either in your chosen note app or cloud storage. Get to know how the system works so when you start regular course work, you are not fumbling for the basics.
3) Ask for help when you need it, not when it is too late.
There are people out there willing to help; you just need to ask. I cannot emphasize this point enough. The brilliant part of a small school like CCI Training Center is there is always someone on hand to help out. Get to know your instructors and the staff at your school, show them you are an active learner and they will always be there for you when you are in a jam.
Another option is to talk to other students or friends. I was lucky that when I had my IT-induced meltdown, I had a friend who had completed the same course the previous year. He spent an hour with me, going through the course material and websites, settling my tears and my fears. Just one hour was all it took to take me from feeling like I wanted to throw it all in, to knowing I could succeed at my studies.
4) Make space to call your own, even if it is just a tidy tray.
Whether you are studying on-campus, on-line or a mix of the two, you need an area at home where you can comfortably study. If you are short on space, get a tray or rolling shelving to keep all the bits and pieces you need to study in one spot and move it where you need to.
Don't forget to also take advantage of flexible study by taking your work with you. The library, park or a coffee shop are all perfect places to get a change of scenery and concentrate on your work without household distractions. I like to study while my children are at after school activities I may have to sit and watch gymnastics for an hour and a half each week, but at least I can make use of the time.
5) Come up with a study plan that's flexible enough to be achievable.
Life can get hectic, so it is best to have a plan as to how you are going to adapt your week to the demands of study. It helps to have a plan of attack, but you need to make sure you have the flexibility to cope when an unexpected event occurs. By being ahead of your studies, you can deal with any difficulties with plenty of time.
You might find there's a certain day of the week that is most conducive to study, or perhaps a time of day that you are particularly studious. Even though I thought I was a night owl, I find waking up before the kids is a great way to get an hour or two of uninterrupted study. In a few weeks, we will also look at different time management and productivity tips, techniques, and app that will help you create a study plan that works.
Do you have any study tips you would like to share? Join the discussion in our Facebook group Career Spotlight with CCI Training, and tell us your secret to study success.