Despite all they’re balancing in life and in their education, adult learners (students who begin college at age 25 or above) seem to find college challenging—but perhaps not overwhelmingly so, as compared to those who begin college fresh out of high school.

In fact, we recently surveyed thousands of adult learners to learn more about their experiences in college.

Adult learners' experienceOnly 9% of students 25+ say that their experience has been difficult. The vast majority (79%) say their experience in college has been “moderate,” suggesting that adult learners actually may have a leg up on traditional students, who tend to be a bit more challenged.

According to author Deborah Davis in her text, The Adult Learner’s Companion: A Guide for the Adult College Student, 2nd Edition, adult learners have an advantage in that they may have had more time to learn to manage stress productively:

Your life experiences have taught you to structure your time to meet deadlines. This skill is critical in college and in the workplace, for you’ll have to complete assignments at specific times. 

Additionally, you can use these already-practiced skills in such classes as math and English by using a formulaic approach as a way to organize ideas to answer math questions and writing papers.

You’ve already developed these skills and know how to structure and organize your time to meet your obligations and responsibilities. Organizational skills are a part of your daily life, and now you can use them in school. (13)

Adult learners' stressIt’s a good thing, too. When surveyed, 21% of our adult learner audience revealed they have a high level of stress. Another 60% said they have a moderate level of stress, and 1% said they have an intolerable amount of stress. Only 18% total said they have low or no amount of stress.


Reference: Davis, Deborah. 2012. The Adult Learner’s Companion: A Guide for the Adult College Student, 2nd Edition. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

What suggestions do you have for adult learners dealing with stress and the challenges of school? Share your ideas below.