There was a time when the phrase “college student” was uttered, that a mental picture formed in everyone’s head of an 18-year-old wide-eyed kid walking across a landscaped campus.

But college students no longer refer to just recent high school graduates…it’s busy working adults.

In fact, according to EAB, a research firm in the education sector, 38 percent of undergraduates are considered adult learners (at least 25 years of age) and this number is projected to grow 21% by 2022.

But why are so many adults headed back to the classroom? Well, the first reason is that digital technology has made it super easy for adults to get their degree. And in just a little bit, we’re going to give you some tips on how adult students can gain their online degree quickly and save THOUSANDS of dollars at the same time.

But first, here are some of the other reasons adults are heading back to college:

Why Are Adults Going Back to College?

Increased Earning Potential

We all want to earn as much as possible in our careers. But to do so, it is often required that we obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher to move on up the ladder. Did you know that statistically from studies done by the NCES and Georgetown University, that college graduates earn far more than non-graduates?

Going back to school for adults, even adults in their 40s and 50s can make sense if it opens the door to more financial opportunities.

A New Career Path

Many adults chose their line of work when they were in their teens or early 20s. How many of us really know ourselves well enough at that age to decide our entire future? Not many!

So there are plenty of adults who find themselves in their 30s and 40s completely unsatisfied with their career choice. Maybe they once had passion for their job but now their passions lies elsewhere. But in order to follow their new passion and make a career change, they need additional training. Going back to school allows adult students to follow their dreams.

They Can Afford it Now

Student loan debt is a real problem in this country. In fact, Forbes estimates the total amount of student loan debt in the United States is over $1.5 trillion with an average of $28,650 per borrower in 2019.

Some high school graduates simply don’t have the money to go to college, and they don’t want to rack up a bunch of debt that they’ll then carry around with them for a decade or more. So they decide instead to work for a few years and put some money aside for their higher education.

Be sure to keep reading because we’re going to tell you exactly how you can save a TON of money on your education.

They Now Have the Time

Many young people graduate high school and start their college career, but then life changes and they find themselves getting married and having kids, and earning their degree goes on the backburner. But eventually the kids are older and the adult has a bit more time and savings on hand, and finishing their degree to earn even MORE for their family makes sense!

The Economy is Changing

Many adults are facing disruptors in their careers. Whether it’s Covid-19, globalization or robot automation, people are losing their jobs! This means adults are forced to pivot and adapt, and that means updating their skills so they can make a career change.

You Want to Start Your Own Business

Starting your own business can be incredible rewarding and very lucrative. But do you have the skills and knowledge required to run a successful company? Many adults go back to college because, having worked for someone else for “X” number of years, they’re now ready to strike it out on their own. Taking business classes will help you take your existing skills and update them so you know how to lead teams and grow revenue.

7 Ways Adults Can Prepare for College

Choose Online Learning

Adults are busy people. They have jobs and usually family responsibilities. They require a way to earn their degree that is convenient FOR THEM.

Online education allows busy adults to gain access to accredited programs around the country that offer flexible learning schedules. While traditional school requires the student to sit in the classroom at a specific hour and for a specific amount of time, online platforms let students learn at whatever hours are convenient for them. This means adults never have to miss work or an important family event like a child’s recital or soccer game.

But online learning offers even more benefits than a flexible schedule. There’s also the huge cost savings. Not only are tuitions significantly more affordable, but you also don’t have the expense of room and board. You don’t even have the expense of putting gas in your tank. Heck, some programs even throw in your books for free (Hint: ours do!)

And finally, many people assume that learning online would feel isolating. But the truth is, online education allows you to network with peers from all over the country and even world. You’ll not only make new friends online, but you can also develop excellent references and connect with people who can later help you find a career in your shared field.

Take A Few Courses to See What You Like

You know you want to make a change, you know you NEED to make a change, but which direction should you go in exactly? Before making a commitment, it’s a good idea to take a few different courses to see what interests you the most.

This is one of the reasons we created

We offer 100% Tuition-FREE courses in interesting industries and topics.

Interested in business? How about a degree in business administration, human resources, finance and more? Maybe you’ve always dreamed of pursuing a law degree. At, you can study criminal justice, forensic science, public policy and more. And if a career in healthcare has been calling, we offer courses in biochemistry, nursing, animal science and much more.

And the best part? These FREE courses could be applied to your overall degree, saving you thousands of dollars.

Get Comfortable with Online Learning

You may spend time surfing the Internet and even shop online, but online learning can feel very different if you haven’t done it before. So it’s a good idea that you get comfortable with it.

That’s another cool thing about Because our courses are free, it gives you an opportunity to get used to being an independent learner.  You can get comfortable learning online without the stress and anxiety of a normal school.

Here are somethings to keep in mind:

Approach Online Learning as You Would Traditional Learning

It’s easy to treat online learning with a more casual or lackadaisical attitude. But taking that approach won’t set you up for success. It’s best to treat your coursework with the same intention you would with a traditional classroom setting.

Also, have a clear objective in mind when beginning your course. What do you want to get out of it? What will the end result be? Do you want to master a specific skill? Expand your knowledge on a certain topic? Obtain certification? When you are clear about your goal, you will put in the right amount of dedication and work and your outcome will never disappoint.

Be Sure to Meet the Technical Requirements

Another major difference between traditional classroom coursework and online learning is that you are now responsible for your learning environment. In most cases, any computer with an internet connection will suffice. But some courses may require more serious hardware.

As an example, if you are taking a course in video editing, you’ll need a computer with sufficient memory and a solid graphics card. You’ll also need the software, which may come with a hefty licensing fee.

Before signing up for any online course, be sure you know the exact technical requirements so you don’t get caught off guard and fall behind on your studies.

Create a Dedicated Study Space

If you don’t have a home office, then you’ll want to create a dedicated study space that will help you focus on your coursework. You’ll need a comfortable place to work where you won’t be interrupted by barking dogs or crying toddlers. Your space should have adequate lighting and whatever kind of supplies you may routinely need.

Build a Study Plan 

The wonderful thing about online learning is that it allows the student freedom to study how and when they want. But if you’re not used to this freedom, you could feel a bit lost at first.

That’s why it’s important to create your own study plan. If you have an actual written plan, you will be far more likely to stick with it and meet your goals. There’s no right or wrong in a study plan. You simply want to be realistic about your everyday life and how much time you’ll have daily or weekly to put toward your coursework.

You may also want to create a study calendar so you can easily glance and see what your tasks for the day are. As a note, your particular schedule may not allow you to study every day. That’s fine. If you can only do three nights a week or weekends, just pencil that onto your calendar and stick with it!

As you can see, online learning means you’ll have to be independent and get things done.

Learn Better Time Management

How exactly do busy adults with jobs and family responsibilities fit online coursework into their daily life? By getting very good at time management!

To manage your time wisely, here are some things to keep in mind:

Use Daily Checklists

Spend a few minutes each day writing down the next day’s To-Do’s. These can include any household errands, your regular work duties and any coursework you plan on doing.

Get Good at Prioritizing

Now, let’s say you have a checklist in front of you with 20 things on it that need to be accomplished the following day. But you know in order to accomplish all 20 things you’d need 10 hours. And you don’t have 10 hours. This is why you’ve got to get very good at prioritizing. To manage your time effectively, you must absolutely prioritize and be ruthless about it. What do you ABSOLUTELY need to accomplish tomorrow and what can wait until the weekend?

Eliminate Distractions

Whether it’s your family, friends or social media, distractions will kill your momentum and cause you to accomplish far less than you intended. Be sure to eliminate as many distractions as you can. Tell family and friends you are unreachable during your study hours. And do not log onto your social media accounts, lest you be tempted the entire time. The fewer distractions there are, the more you will be able to focus and accomplish your daily goals.

Start Talking with Colleges that are Adult-Friendly

There are a lot of great schools in the country, but not all of them cater to adult students. Why not focus on the ones that do?  It’s a good idea to start researching these schools and talk with admissions so you know exactly what their requirements are. Will they allow you to transfer any existing college credits? Do they offer online courses?

Don’t worry, we can help.  Check out our new Smartplan! It helps you see which schools you could like (online, no applications fees, etc.) and chart a plan to potential savings. Try it out for free here.

We’ve also written an entire article on how you can go about approaching these schools and asking them the right questions. Take a few moments to read it here.

The point is, for adult students to be successful, they’ve got to choose the right school for their specific needs. This is something else can help you with. We’ve partnered with fantastic schools across the country to specifically help adult learners earn their degree.

Try it out…get a free Smartplan, take some free classes, and find other ways to save at different schools.

Choose a School That Doesn’t Require SAT/ACT

We didn’t all get outstanding scores on our SAT/ACT tests. Many admissions professionals are now acknowledging that these test scores are not necessarily indicative of a student’s ability to be successful. If you’re not thrilled with your scores, look for a school that doesn’t take them into consideration.

Don’t Wait

Too many adults put learning off until “just the right time.” Often that time never comes. But think of it, when you earn your degree, you could be happier and potentially make more money with a career you love. And we can help you get started.

Take a few minutes to try out our new Smartplan and figure out what schools are a good fit for you (and how you could save).  You could also start taking as many free courses as you’d like. When you are ready to go for your degree, our partners will allow you to apply your courses to your degree, thus potentially saving you a lot of money and time. And, our partnering colleges and universities also offer discounts on your tuition.

So, whether you want to change careers, start earning more or just finish what you started years ago, online degrees are making it easier than ever for adult students to gain their higher education.

Will this be the year you finally go for it? We hope so, and see if can help you along your journey.

To Your Success!

About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.