Tips for Adult Learners

You are an adult learner. Your learning is taking place in many ways – through the workplace, military experience, community activities and self-study. Your learning may be in the classroom or online.

You may do short-term training to get a job, make a career transition, or to obtain more education. Ready to move toward a college degree or enter a training program that could lead to career advancement? You are not alone. There are many resources for you to use.

Here are some questions to help you find support when you are ready to start short-term training.

If you are ready to start, change, or advance in a career:

  1. Think about the skills you already have.
  2. Find out what skills are needed for in-demand careers.
  3. Identify a training or degree program that fits your career goals.
  4. Choose the short-term training program for you.

There are many federal and state programs to help you keep costs for college low. Research training funds for dislocated workers, employer tuition benefits, and funding from government agencies and community resources. For more information, go to How to Pay for Training.

  • Did you complete college courses five, 10 or 20 years ago? Talk to admissions counselor or academic advisor to see which courses may fit with the program you choose. A counselor will explain how your courses may transfer.  
  • Did you complete training in the military, in your community, or in a past job? Those may count toward your degree. You also may have gained skills and knowledge through hands-on experiences at work, home or in your community. Some of that learning may be college-level and meet course requirements in a degree program.
    1. The colleges and universities of Minnesota State have credit for prior learning options to find out how your past experiences might help your future goals.
    2. Your past learning may give you options to add to your stackable credentials. Stackable credentials can advance your education and career. A credit for prior learning assessment will let you know which of your experiences might translate to a credential.

You may feel anxious about starting short-term training or going to college as an adult. Can you keep up with the classwork? What are online courses like? How will you manage school along with family and work responsibilities? Maybe you feel like you did not do well in school in the past and wonder if you will do well now.

You will likely do better in short-term training than you realize. You are not alone and you have a lot of sources for help. Remember that many other adults are going back to school, have some of those same feelings, and are able to succeed, just as you will.

Here are some tips to help you as an adult in college:

  • Take care of yourself. Get enough exercise and sleep. Eat healthy foods. Spend time with your family and friends.
  • Organize your weekly schedule to include study time. For each hour of class, plan for at least 1-2 hours of study time outside of class, even for online courses. If you are scheduled for a two hour class that meets once a week, add another 3-4 hours on a different day to do class assignments.  
  • Study in spaces that works for you (quiet, undisturbed, soft music, etc.).
  • Talk with your instructors.
  • Connect with classmates.
  • Ask questions in class and in your study groups.
  • Take advantage of support services (online and on campus).
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes.

Campuses at Minnesota State have student support resources. You can call, email, chat or go on campus to get assistance with enrolling in short-term training, accessing online courses, applying for financial aid, getting tutoring, and more.

  1. Contact the admissions department at the college you are interested in attending. Staff will talk to you about what programs or classes you might be interested in.
  2. The college will help you figure out if you need to go through course placement. You may already qualify from high school or college admissions tests. Did you take the ACT, SAT, or MCA test in the last five years? That score can be used to place you in the level you are best prepared to succeed.
  3. If you have a high school grade point average (GPA) from the last 10 years, that may be used for course placement.
  4. Do you have past college coursework? Did you take standardized tests like the CLEP or AP tests? Those grades and scores may be used to find the right class to take.

If none of these are available or if you do not think that they accurately show your skills, you may:

  • Take the Accuplacer though the college.
  • Ask for Guided Self-Placement. It’s a type of interview with some questions about your abilities and experiences, plus counseling to help you find the best class to meet your current knowledge.
  • Faculty or staff will help you identify if you are ready for:
    • developmental classes that will prepare you for college level courses
    • introductory college level courses

Skill Refresher Classes

Adult Basic Education partners on college campuses and in community-based organizations can help you figure out if you are ready for college classes. Adult Basic Education (ABE) has short-term training for basic skills in math, reading, and English as a Second Language.

If you do not have your high school diploma, ABE can help you prepare for the General Education Development (GED) Test which is equivalent to a high school diploma when applying to college. ABE also may help you earn the standard adult diploma which is based on skills and knowledge you have gained through working and life experiences. Check out Types of Short-Term Training for more about ABE options.