How to succeed as an adult student

Jul 3, 2024Courtney Morris
San Jacinto College adult student in classroom

If you’re an adult student coming to San Jacinto College for a new degree or enrolling for the first time, you’ve taken the most important step: You’ve stopped waiting and started doing.

Whether you’re 25 or 85, San Jac experts share how to step back into the classroom with confidence in our Q&A below.

Finally, once you've finished that certificate or degree, don’t forget to celebrate you. Walk across the commencement stage to accept your diploma. You've earned it!

Tips from Faculty/Staff

You've got questions? Faculty and staff answer common questions about returning to college as an older student.

Adam Rogers, program advisor coordinator: Goal setting comes down to prioritizing — the ability to say “no” and be realistic. Have an honest conversation with your support network about your academic pursuits and the sacrifices needed.

Make sure your long-term goals are reinforced by shorter ones. For example, if your long-term goal is to earn your degree, there should be shorter-term goals for the year, semester, month, and week that will make the long-term goal more attainable. Don’t be discouraged if the two don’t mesh. This may be the perfect time to let some outdated life scripts go! 

Dr. Joanie DeForest, college prep department chair: If you take more classes than you can handle, you may end up failing or dropping a class, which costs money and time. Figure out how much time needs to be dedicated to study, family, and work. If this adds up to more than 24 hours in a day, adjust your schedule. If taking two classes is out of the question, take one and focus on doing well.

Dr. Kimberly Thomas, college prep department chair: Create a strong support system of family, friends, classmates, and coworkers who support your goals and will help you succeed. This may mean having someone take care of dinner or cooking meals ahead during heavy assignment times or nights you have class. Establish boundaries and expectations with those around you. 

Roselle Helms, director of technology effectiveness: Start with the student portal and your student email, as San Jac’s information technology services shares technology-related announcements there.

The technology support page offers helpful tools like applying for the student loaner laptop program. Or visit our new campus service desks if you’re unsure where to start. We can help meet your technology needs, whether it’s connecting to the Wi-Fi or verifying system updates are current. 

Ginnette Ruelas, student engagement/support specialist: Participating in activities and events on campus will improve your social connections. If you see an event happening on campus, stop and strike up a conversation with people. Additionally, look for a student organization that fits your needs. This is a great way to network with people who share similar interests — and help you stay motivated throughout your academic journey.

Learn more about student life

Dr. JoEllen Price, dean of financial aid and scholarships: You should consider directly billed tuition (based on residency status) and indirect costs (books, supplies, travel expenses, food, housing, and personal expenses). It’s essential to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines your eligibility for federal, state, and institutional aid programs. You can also apply for San Jacinto College Foundation scholarships.

Federal, state, and institutional aid is awarded based on your total cost of attendance. Depending on eligibility and available funds, you may receive aid for basic living expenses that go beyond directly billed costs. These funds are refunded to you while attending classes to assist with books, supplies, travel, food, and housing. 

Erika Hernandez, Student Success Center director: Try these things:

  1. Form a study group: Peers can offer different perspectives and study tips. It also creates more opportunities for collaborative learning.
  2. Make a study schedule: Navigating college and everyday life can get hectic. Scheduling time to study and work on assignments may help you feel less overwhelmed.
  3. Take notes: Pay attention to the class and study material and take notes as you go. If you don’t understand something, ask questions before, during, or after class.
  4. Visit the Student Success Center: We offer face-to-face and online tutoring services and areas to study individually or with your group. 

Robert Murray, director of mental health counseling: Going to school, working, and managing personal relationships can feel overwhelming. Self-care is paramount to your wellness. This could include taking a bath, walking the dogs, or even grocery shopping without the kids. It’s important to notice when the stress is too much … when you need to step away from whatever you’re doing, regather your thoughts, then return to the activity with a clear head.

If you’re having difficulty with your class, reach out to your professor. If you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, consistent stress, etc., please reach out to a mental health counselor in the welcome centers at South, Central, and North Campuses. 

Jennifer Cerda, career and transfer coordinator: Reflect on your interests, passions, and skills. Research industries and careers that interest you. Look into job market trends, required skills, and potential growth opportunities.

Identify the transferable skills you’ve acquired throughout your education and previous work that can be applied to your new career. Consider if you need more education or training to bridge any knowledge or skill gaps for your new career.

Lastly, consider starting with part-time or freelance work, internships, or volunteer opportunities in your new career field.

Learn more about career support


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