The thought of starting college can be intimidating, even a bit frightening. There are concerns about meeting academic challenges and demands, managing time and workloads, fitting in, making friends, and handling the stress that comes with it all.
Adult learners, like traditional students, share many of these same concerns. However, they also need to consider how they will pay for college while supporting a family, balance the demands of work and school, and still make time for their families.
Often times, adults returning to college have been out of school for a while and this can be overwhelming. Will they adjust easily to the classroom, understand the new technology, or remember how to write a research paper?
Fortunately, the Center for Adult and Continuing Education at Misericordia University not only recognizes these concerns but works proactively to address them. My colleagues and I have something in common with our students – we, too, were adult learners. Some of us are graduates of Misericordia’s Expressway Program, while others completed their graduate studies at the university. We understand first-hand the plight of the adult learner. Our experiences contribute to our ability to develop programs and services to help ease the transition for our adult learners.
Our Expressway New Student Orientations have been very helpful to students entering Misericordia to pursue their bachelor degree in majors such as Accounting, Applied Behavioral Sciences, Business Administration, Government, Law, & National Security, Health Care Management, Information Technology, and Professional Studies. Held three times per year before the start of each semester, these day-long orientations focus on important topics such as navigating the online classroom, using the library, and learning about the various individuals, offices, services, and resources available to all students.
New students also have the opportunity to speak with current students to learn about their experiences as adult learners at Misericordia and to ask questions that can best be answered by someone who has experienced just what they will be experiencing.
But this guidance doesn’t end with a one-day orientation. In fact, it’s just the beginning. The student services coordinators in the Center for Adult & Continuing Education provide ongoing support for our adult learners, who are welcome to visit the Center, or simply call or email the staff at any time with questions or concerns.
We also offer a mentoring program for new students in our Expressway Program. Students are paired with a mentor, most often a current Expressway student in the same major, who helps them to establish a sense of purpose and belonging as both a student in the Expressway Program as well as a member of the Misericordia University campus family. Mentors also help troubleshoot common issues that new students have encountered and help them to build the necessary skills to become effective learners.
Misericordia University’s Adult Student Council, whose mission is to give adult students a voice in what matters most to them and to help enhance and enrich their overall college experience, is also there for our new students. Council members not only attend our new student orientations, but also our Adult Learner Open Houses to help answer questions and ease concerns. The council is also a great way to get to know other students, and it’s nice to see the lasting friendships that develop.
Perhaps the most important thing for any student to know is that they are not alone. There are others who have been in their shoes, and are here to help them learn to succeed!
About the author: Johnna Evans, M.S. '15 is the Expressway Student Services Coordinator for the Center for Adult and Continuing Education at Misericordia University. She also serves as the advisor to the Adult Student Council.