Easy ways to cut the fuss out of going back to school

Going to school on your first day as a kid was a very daunting experience for a lot of us. Unfortunately, doing it again as an adult can feel even harder. But for a lot of us, it’s a necessary step. It’s how we develop our skills and make ourselves all the more valuable. To those who care about self-development, it can be the qualifications and knowledge we need to go with our experience. All the same, it can be harder to adapt as an adult. Here are some ideas to help you:

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Getting over your nerves

One of the first, and sometimes biggest, hurdles can be your own psychological barriers. A lot of us feel some apprehension about ‘going back to school’. Even that term can make it sound like a step back. This can awaken all sorts of feelings of embarrassment or trepidation. But we can cut the anxiety out. Firstly, by realizing you’re far from alone. Mature students aren’t the majority, no, but they’re not particularly uncommon, either. You’re at a different life stage than the younger students, sure. But that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to have good study relations with them either. Once you take the plunge, you’ll feel that anxiety can slip away easily.

Finding free courses

Of course, the payment that you have to give for your courses is a huge part of whether or not you might be able to do it. However, you might just be able to cut the worries of cost from your mind entirely. You may be able to skip the loan necessary to usually get an education by finding some of the free courses out there. Some universities and colleges offer free physical and online courses. You can also benefit from the lessons by finding those hosted in video form. These may not come with the degree, but if it’s the learning you’re after, those videos could be a huge help.


Financing your education

Of course, you may also have to finance your education. If your credit’s good, you may be able to get a loan to help you do just that. Grants and scholarships of all kinds exist, too. There are a lot for adults. There might be even more depending on your race, background, health and geography. There are also ways you can finance your life during your studies, too. It can be difficult to balance a job and education if you need the money. That’s why on campus jobs can be the best choice. They often take that balance into account.

Navigating academic criticism

One of the skills that most adult students tend to find a surprise is the format which a lot of college tests take. Academic criticism usually involves a lot of research and using citations to make arguments. It’s far from uncommon to see students, adult and younger alike, struggling with the format of the questions. From finding good argumentative essay topics to getting the formatting right. However, there are a lot of resources online for doing just that. Starting or finding a study group related to your class can just as easily help, as well. The idea is to get a grip on the process. After that, any topic is a bit easier to tackle.


The balancing act

Of course, for some of us, it’s not just education and money that needs balanced. It might also involve a family and children that need us, too. This is far from a new problem and there are all kinds of resources to help you deal with it. First, let your professors know. They’ll treat you with a lot more understanding if you need to jump out of a class or an extension. If they don’t, they’re liable for getting in trouble due to discrimination. Look at the options your college has for funding or daycare as well.


If you’re an adult going back into education, you’re most likely doing it to benefit the career you have in mind in some way. It can easily be used by those are even currently running a business. This is why it’s a good idea to network early and often. Participate and get on the good side of your professors. Make good connections with those who seem like they know what they’re doing. The contacts you make in your education could serve to open all sorts of doors in your professional life.


I Started a Business With a Toddler: Li-ling Ooi of Xelium

Tell us a little about your business

We run an IT educational consultancy, Xelium. I believe the fancy term is ‘education technologist’, in essence we help schools, the school management and teachers work towards incorporating and applying IT into their lessons and try to encourage schools to move towards more technology—based methods of communication (e.g. emails, twitter). We specialize particularly in building, creating and supporting Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and building and maintaining websites. We are currently working on a set of navigational tools which will allow easier navigation within VLEs.

What was your job before starting your business?

I lectured in Structural Chemistry at University. This was where I had my first foray in to VLEs both from an academics and a students perspective. I also worked on a teaching and learning qualification here, which got me interested in how teaching and learning could be made more attractive to students.

How did you go from your old career to your new business?

Going back after maternity leave was very difficult, because the work environment simply was not supportive at all. I stayed there for about a year, before finally resigning. It was a big, big move and some personal experiences had helped to put things in to perspective. Between quitting work and starting a business, I wrote an undergraduate textbook on my specialism, Principles of X-ray Crystallography, published by OUP in Dec 2009.

What were your reasons for starting a business?

The business started as a natural extension to what we had been asked to do for some schools. We had for the past few years been supporting and maintaining some website for schools, and we were asked to work on VLE implementation and training for these same schools.

We progressively moved towards formalizing that relationship and started to take on more clients. I started the business on my own first, and then later on, managed to persuade my husband that we could do it together and make it work better. Unlike a lot of mums, I did not quit work to spend more time with my child, in all honesty I felt as if I was ‘backed in to a corner’ with no other way out apart from leaving.In hindsight though, I am really glad I did it, because I would have missed out so much with working fulltime and a child in nursery all day, every day. I must say though, staying at home, with a child, is so so so much harder work than actually ‘going to work’, although juggling work and child-care is an immense feat in itself! Hats off to all mummies out there!

An amazing wonderful plus, to working from home is having the flexibility and the ability to define our own working hours. Having said that, we only ever work at 50% capacity whenever G is at home. She’s used to having someone ‘entertain’ her.

Did you use any childcare?

When I was writing my book, she went to nursery 1 day a week, and the rest of the book was written in her nap times and at night after she went to bed. Now that she’s at school, we work the hours that she’s at school and continue after she goes to bed.

How did you get your business idea?

We were in part already offering these services to some clients who had requested them prior to us becoming a business.

What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?

I think one of our challenges, still a challenge, as a business, is getting word out, about what we do. We have grown very organically mainly through word of mouth and requests, with clients passing on our information to other prospective clients. In an ideal world, I would love to have the business grow exponentially, but it has worked well so far and we have very good relationships with all of our clients.

What training, information or advice did you need to get started?

I looked up masses and masses of information online, particularly about starting up a limited company, and learning about taxation, returns etc. Surprisingly, the HMRC helplines are very helpful and businesslink.org.uk contains a lot of very helpful information. Whenever I have a question about something, I usually google it, and often find my way to some business forum, where I can lurk about and eventually find the answer to my question. It seems quite rare to encounter an issue that has not been asked before.

If you could give one piece of advice to a mum of a baby or toddler starting a business, what would it be?

I think the advise I wished someone would have been able to give me early on, was that as mums, we often are so used to juggling so so many things, and our to-do lists are infinite and down right scary! It’s so very important, to be able to take stock each day of how much you’ve accomplished in that day, regardless of how many to-dos have or have not been ticked off. Every day is a success, and even if you’ve managed to just do one thing for your business, you would have done so much for your children and family, whatever it is, it’s still an accomplishment.

I’ve also found it really really important to learn to ‘let go’ and live in the moment. For example, if I’m with Georgia at the park, I used to keep thinking about all the things I hadn’t done for work, but I’ve since learnt to just live in the ‘present’ and enjoy the time I spend with her or our time as a family.

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