For any number of reasons, many people decide to enroll in college once they’ve passed the “traditional” age range of 18-24. For some adult learners, it’s a return to finish what they started. Others go back to college in order to learn new skills, build upon their existing knowledge, or explore new fields of study. And for still others, it’s their first opportunity to attend.

As a part of Cengage Learning’s recent Student Engagement Insights survey, we asked college students over the age of 25 a series of questions related to their college experience. Today, we’re sharing some of their thoughts on their readiness and preparation for college.

Preparation for college work: Are adult learners confident?

According to our survey, the great majority of adult learners are confident in their level of preparedness for college. We heard from more than 2,600 students 25 and over, and 77% of them said that they felt prepared when they returned to school.

According to our recent Instructor Engagement Insights survey, most college instructors would agree with these students’ self assessment. Of the over seven hundred instructors who responded to the survey, 30% said that adult learners are as prepared as students who begin college directly after high school, and 57% believe adult learners are actually more prepared. Only 14% opined that adult learners are less prepared than “traditional” students.

A support system: Upon whom do they most depend?

Though self confidence plays a large role in a student’s desire and ability to succeed, an individual’s success is fostered by the support of others. Because of adult learners’ often unique situations, we wanted to learn about their support networks. We asked: Whose support makes the largest difference in your ability to succeed in college?

Adult learners: whose support prompts student success?

















Though a significant percentage (22%) noted that faculty support meant the most, more than half (58%) of adult learners who responded to our survey indicated that their families’ support made the largest contribution towards their success.

Do family members support their entrance or return to college? Thankfully, in most cases, the answer is yes. An overwhelming percentage of the students (98%) stated that their families supported their decision to attend college at this time. Considering all the other demands that life can bring, having the support from the family can make all the difference when it comes to students’ success.


How do you support the success of the adult learners in your classes? Do you have any particular recommendations for them? Share them in the comments.