Going to school as an adult learner can be intimidating. Very intimidating. If you’ve never taken classes while juggling home, work, and all of your other obligations, you may just wonder how you’re ever going to get everything done, as well as how you’re going to do it all as well as you’d like. You have a standard that you want to uphold and you’re unsure whether going to school as an adult will help you keep it.
Or, if you have been in this type of academic environment before, the idea of going back to it may still cause you anxiety because you aren’t sure whether you can handle the additional commitment at this particular moment in time. Maybe you have more kids than you had when you went to school the first time, more responsibilities at work, or some other obligations that you didn’t have before.
In this case, it’s similar to not having ridden a bike for 10 years and then suddenly being faced with a fairly long trek. You begin to question whether you’ll have the energy to start, let alone finish.
You have a good idea of what you’re up against, yet you haven’t worked the muscles necessary to make the lengthy ride. As a result, you consciously (and subconsciously) consider all of the possible ways in which you could potentially fail yourself and your family, making you not want to do it at all.
To help you overcome these types of concerns and worries, there is one thing you can do that will make the idea of becoming an adult learner more palatable. It is increasing your self-confidence.
The Role of Confidence in an Academic Setting
When you feel confident that you can handle school in addition to all of your other responsibilities, you face your college career with a much different attitude than if you don’t think you can do everything at once. Essentially, whatever you believe to be true is what will be.
In this sense, confidence in your abilities can ultimately affect the levels of success you’re able to reach—maybe even more so than the abilities themselves says Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
In a Psychology Today post he authored a short time ago, Dr. Kaufman indicates that “so much research now shows the importance of mindset, self-belief, and confidence on performance.” In other words, as Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
So what can you do to get the level of confidence you need to not only sign up as an adult learner, but to also experience higher levels of success once you do?
5 Effective Ways to Increase Your Confidence as an Adult Learner
Fortunately, there are a number of actions you can take to become more comfortable with the idea of taking college courses again (or for the first time if you’ve never been in an academic setting outside of high school).
Here are a few to consider:
- Let go of the negative mindset. Instead of thinking about all of the things you can’t do, like having class on certain nights of the week or being able to pay a babysitter for more than a few hours a week, focus on the things you can and are willing to do to help you achieve your professional goals. And every time you hear yourself start to go down that path of negativity, stop yourself and reframe your thoughts so they are more positive in nature. Mayo Clinic also suggests that you challenge your negative thoughts, testing their accuracy so that you realize that they are your perception as opposed to your truth.
- Look for solutions versus excuses. Anyone can talk themselves out of anything, citing a million different reasons why something won’t work for them. But when you take a different approach, looking for solutions to your obstacles versus excuses as to why you can’t get around them, you’re more likely to do whatever it is you’ve set out to do.
- Talk to others who’ve done it and succeeded. One way to gain the confidence that you can succeed as an adult learner is to talk to others who’ve succeeded at this very thing before you. Whether you reach out to them personally, by email, or even read a book they’ve wrote, this motivates and inspires you to reach the same levels of success that they’ve reached, giving you that little nudge you need to push yourself forward. Speaking of talking to others…
- Quit comparing yourself to others. Just as comparing yourself to others can backfire when you’re trying to lose weight, quit smoking, or handle another type of difficult situation as best you can, the same is true when it comes to taking adult learner courses. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for you, so while it’s great to get ideas from how others are making the most of their similar situations, it’s probably even more important to find the methods and avenues that work best for you.
- Remind yourself of times in the past when you’ve exceeded your own expectations. This is sometimes referred to as anchoring, which is essentially when you link back to previous occasions when you felt the same way (not very confident) yet exceeded your own expectations. This helps remind you that, even if you don’t feel the most self-assured right now, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to handle it and do well regardless.
Doing these five things can help give you the confidence you need to go back to school and do a good job once you get there. Have faith in yourself. We do!
For more information on how to become more confident in a school setting, here are some more blogs:
Photo: Chris & Karen Highland