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Overcoming Challenges as an Adult Learner: A Guide for Adult Undergraduate and Graduate Students 

By Kari Wilson and Caitlin Querio on Friday, May 3, 2024


Adult learners pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies encounter distinctive challenges as they navigate the delicate balance of work, family, and academic responsibilities. In this article, we delve into the common hurdles faced by adult students and offer practical solutions to overcome these obstacles. Whether you’re contemplating a return to school or are already immersed in your educational journey, this guide serves as a valuable resource for navigating the complexities of adult education. 

Time Management  

Time management is often cited as a top challenge for adult learners pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies. The balancing act between work, family, and academic commitments can be daunting, but it’s a hurdle that many successful students have overcome through innovative time management strategies.  

Consider a working professional and parent who decided to pursue a master’s degree online. Initially overwhelmed, they turned to technology for help, discovering the effectiveness of digital planners. By syncing tasks and deadlines across devices, they maintained organization and accessibility. 

Implementing dedicated study hours was crucial. They carved out specific time blocks each day, free from distractions, prioritizing coursework. Creating a realistic timetable, they learned to prioritize tasks based on importance and deadlines, fostering a healthy balance. They also created a dedicated study space to help stay focused from other home distractions. 

Through these innovative time management strategies, they thrived in their online program. By leveraging digital planners, scheduling dedicated study hours, and creating a realistic timetable, they conquered the time management challenge and achieved academic success. 

Their story serves as inspiration for other adult learners navigating similar challenges. By adopting similar strategies and embracing technology, they too can overcome hurdles and achieve their academic goals. 

Flexibility in Learning 

Adult learners need flexibility to accommodate their varied schedules. Programs offering online classes, evening courses, or weekend options are crucial. Here at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, we offer modular courses, so students are only taking one course at a time, making it easier to balance all their responsibilities. These options cater to the diverse needs of adult learners, enabling them to balance work, family, and education. Success stories abound, showcasing the adaptability and resilience of these learners. From single parents managing childcare to full-time professionals pursuing advanced degrees, flexible learning environments empower adults to thrive in their educational pursuits. These stories underscore the importance of accessible and adaptable learning options for adult learners seeking to achieve their academic and career goals. 

Support Systems 

Building a robust support system is crucial for adult learners, both within their academic institution and at home. Academic advisors are your primary support person as a student at UNW. They, along with your faculty, will help foster a positive learning experience. Your academic advisor will provide guidance, assistance, and encouragement to students navigating their academic journey. Additionally, the support of family, friends, and peers at home can offer emotional and practical assistance, helping learners stay motivated and focused. By cultivating a strong support network, adult learners can overcome challenges and achieve success in their educational endeavors. 

Because we understand the unique challenges adult learners face, we invite you to explore the resources and support available at our institution. By prioritizing your time, utilizing technology, and connecting with our vibrant community, you can overcome the hurdles of adult education. Visit our website to discover how our programs and services can empower you on your academic journey. Your success starts here!