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5 Tips for Coping with Anxiety When Going Back to School as an Adult

Eileen Bailey Jul 13th, 2012 (updated Nov 30th, 2016)
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Today, more and more adults are returning to college, whether to finally start their education, finish up a degree program or further their education. But, as with children with anxiety, going back to school can be scary. You may worry that you won’t fit in, wonder how you are going to finance your education, fear that you can’t keep up with the workload or be concerned about taking tests. Whether you are quitting your job and going back full-time or returning part-time, your anxieties can be overwhelming. The following tips can help adult learners succeed at college.

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Work on your finances
Work on your finances

Money problems and worrying about finances can distract you from your studies. Create a budget and plan how you are going to pay for your education. Remember, financial aid and scholarships are available to anyone attending college, not just kids. Talk with your school’s financial aid office and find out what options are open to you. Having your finances in order can help you focus on your classes.

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Plan your time
Plan your time

Multiple obligations can take away from your ability to complete homework, write papers and study for tests. Plan out your week and block off time for you to work on your studies; let your family know that during these times they will need to fend for themselves. If you have younger children, talk with your partner about him or her caring for the children during these times or consider hiring a babysitter.

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Take care of yourself
Take care of yourself

You may find yourself giving up sleep or skipping meals to try to get everything done, you may feel tired and burned-out. Make a list of what chores are most important and focus on getting those done. Enlist your family to help and let less important tasks go. Getting a good night’s sleep and eating right will not only help keep your anxiety under control, it will help you be more focused and alert during classes.

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Find a support group
Find a support group

When you are overwhelmed, you often feel alone, as if you are the only one going through this stressful situation. But with more and more adult learners, there are plenty of other people struggling with the same issues. Check with your college or online for support groups for adult learners so you can get and give support and advice for dealing with the major (and minor) issues that are bogging you down.

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Use strategies to manage test anxiety
Use strategies to manage test anxiety

Everyone feels nervous before a big test, but for some, test anxiety can be paralyzing. You have studied, you know the information, and yet, when you sit down to take the test, you can’t seem to remember anything. Strategies such as understanding the type of test you are taking, using positive self-talk, feeling confident in your knowledge and managing physical symptoms of anxiety can help.