Despite all they’re balancing, adult learners (students who begin college at age 25 or above) find college challenging—but perhaps not overwhelmingly so. We recently surveyed thousands of adult learners to learn more about their experiences in college. The majority, 69% of students 25+ say that their life skills “definitely” help them manage college, as compared to students who enter directly after high school.

Life experiences account for a lot of our intellectual strengths. Experiences let you learn how best to interact with the people and world around you, how to manage stress, and how to prioritize your time. These are often the biggest challenges for traditional college students coming straight from high school, and many of them may not fully master them until they’re well into their first job out of college.

Apply your knowledge

According to author Deborah Davis in her text, The Adult Learner’s Companion: A Guide for the Adult College Student, 2nd Edition, learners attending college with a little life experience under their belts have a number of advantages in the knowledge department. For example, you already know how to:

  • Communicate: You know how to communicate. You talk to people all the time. You interviewed for a job and were hired. Obviously, you know how to communicate with people to get what you want.
  • Create and maintain relationships: You know how to relate to those close to you. You can’t maintain a close relationship with others if you don’t know how to relate to them! You know the value of close relationships—your spouse, your friends, your children, your relatives—and you know that being with others enhances the quality of life.
  • Handle responsibilities: You know how to meet obligations and complete what you need to—both with your family and in the workplace. You know how to meet expectations in a timely way. You know the significance of money and the responsibilities of fiscal management.
  • Learn new information: You know how to approach new information, to read, to study, to absorb, and to practice. You learned how to drive, how to shave, how to tie your shoes, how to read instructions. If we don’t know how to do something, we learn—and you learned how.
  • Achieve your goal: You know what it takes to achieve goals: tenacity, dedication, commitment, and clear focus. You’ve set many goals for yourself and have worked very hard to achieve them—you know what it takes! (11)

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

In what other ways might an adult learner apply their life skills to their college experience? Share your thoughts below.