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Opening the Doors to Academic Access and Success As an Adult Student

Female adult student from Empire State Collge works on laptop.

Everyone should be afforded a chance at furthering their education, whether they are just starting out or want to take a different direction within their careers. However, adults who are already working full time jobs and don’t have a lot of time to spare may find this a difficult task to take on. But this doesn’t mean that the options and opportunities for them to meet their goals aren’t available.

According to research from 2009-2011, more than one-third of enrolled college students are over the age of 25. When making the decision to come back to school, adult learners will find many opportunities and resources available that enable them to continue their education, from financial aid to advising, and more. At SUNY, adult learners have a large range of options, from taking community college courses to gain a bit more knowledge in their employment field to enrolling in certificate or degree granting programs either online with OpenSUNY or at a SUNY campus. You just need to have the drive and determination to go forward!

Jed Brown, NCCC student CASE winner with Chancellor Zimpher.

Jed Brown, middle, is a student at North Country Community College and a 2015 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence winner.

Jed Brown is one example of an adult learner, who decided to take the leap and continue his education at North Country Community College. A recent recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, his story demonstrates how sometimes setbacks actually open the doors to future academic endeavors and success.

What has motivated you to return to school and become an adult non-traditional student?

My initial motivation was working with youth at a wilderness therapy program and really enjoying it, which led to wanting to get into teaching. Although I was really good at teaching kids in the work I was doing, I didn’t have the education necessary to teach at schools or universities. About two years ago the company I was working for shut down the operation I was working at and poof, I was out of a job and headed back to school. Having one door close on me led to another window opening up. I merely had to go through it.

How have you been able to pursue an education and balance your work and family life?

That’s been the trickiest part of going back to school and it’s taken a lot of work. First off, I have a great wife who supports me in my endeavors, so that makes things much easier. I’ve had to really buckle down financially and focus on pure necessities. Fun activities and trips that I used to engage in or go on have been put on hold until I finish my degree for the most part.

Do you have any advice for adults who may be considering going back to school?

The biggest thing for me was reaching out to as many people at school for advice as I could. Having been out of school for 17 years, everything was pretty new to me. Everyone I talked to was ready to help, but I had to reach out to them for it. Use your life experience to your advantage by engaging in classes and speaking with professors outside of class. Also, apply for as many scholarships and grants that you qualify for. We’ve been working in the real world and know the value of money, which younger students might not have as clear of a picture on. Go out and win that money.

Why is it important to complete an education despite the stage a person may be in their life?

For me, it has always been about achieving at a high level and doing what I want to do with my life. Up until now, I was all about big adventures like hiking the Appalachian Trail or the Camino de Santiago. Adventures like these weren’t easy to accomplish and gave me a great education and self-satisfaction. However, what they didn’t give me was the academic education I need to pursue my career goals long term. I’m a true believer in the idea that age is just a number; so wherever you’re at in life don’t be afraid to take on the next challenge.

As an adult student, what have you learned that will benefit you moving forward with your degree?

What has stuck out to me is how much professors and staff at school have been willing to help me out along the way. When I came to them and showed enthusiasm and effort in the process, they were ready to do the same. I intend to continue working with professors in an enthusiastic way and put a lot of effort into my education, which I’m sure they’ll match. That’s why they’re in this discipline after all!

Atiba Archibald

Written by Atiba Archibald

Atiba was an intern with SUNY’s Office of New Media, who became a University at Albany graduate in English with a minor in Communications.

May 5, 2015

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