Understanding the Challenges of Pursuing a Second Degree

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In recent years, it’s become increasingly common for adults far into their working lives to realize it’s time for them to go back to school to achieve something even higher. Whether it’s out of the interest of a new career path or making more money, deciding to return to school is exciting but intimidating. After all, getting a second degree is a different experience from traditional-age schooling — posing a unique set of challenges.

While these challenges are surmountable with the right amount of preparation and persistence, you must enter your experience as an adult learner with an open mind and plan for success. That said, here are the most common challenges of pursuing a second degree and the best strategies for handling each one.

Expensive Tuition and Schooling Fees

Although the ever-rising costs of college have become a challenge for most students, it’s a more prominent issue among adult learners since they likely have other financial responsibilities — ranging from mortgages to family needs. For these reasons, most adults assume that getting a second degree isn’t a suitable choice because of the financial commitment it requires.

Although taking on the costs of college tuition is a significant decision, luckily, there are many options to help make schooling more affordable. Regardless if you’re attending a prestigious nursing school to get your MSN degree or your doctoral degree in writing, there are flexible ways to pay for your education without breaking the bank.


One of the most significant challenges common for working adult learners is time management. After all, unlike traditional students, adult students usually have a full-time job or have families to support. That means most of their time is already occupied, and many are looking to attend school part-time or are finding creative ways to fit school activities into their schedules. Luckily, anyone can overcome this challenge.

All you need to do is find a more flexible program, which typically means one that isn’t full-time or on-campus. Some adult learners choose to take night classes or those with low-residency campus options. However, keep in mind that these options are still limiting since they’re still offered at strictly set times, representing an additional time commitment. Although that’s enough for most adult students, that isn’t the case for all of them.

Taking online courses is the best choice for students since it’s flexible and asynchronous, meaning you can log in and attend class whenever convenient. So, you can go to school whenever you have free time, whether it’s late at night or early in the morning. Although this still requires extra time for schoolwork, it’s the best learning method for busy adult learners as they can fit it into their schedule.

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The Fear of Not Being Cut Out for College

Many adult learners are looking to return to school. However, most hesitate since they’re afraid of not obtaining their second degrees since most people think back to high school or prior college experiences and remember the challenges that come along with it. Whether it was work, busy schedules, or lack of motivation or engagement, there’s a reason why many adult learners hold back on going back to school.

Although all these fears may be understandable, adults can easily overcome them as long as they have the motivation and persistence. So, push forward and keep your eye on your ultimate goal, getting that second degree. Luckily, you can enroll in degree programs specifically developed with the unique needs of adult learners in mind, including night classes or online programs.

Adult learners will likely feel more at ease in these programs, surrounded by classmates who have gone through the same things and those with the same fears of not cutting out in college.

Additional Time Needed For Studying

If you’re considering getting a second degree, prepare to factor in extra time that’ll take to complete it. After all, not only will you need to finish all your general education requirements, but you’ll also need to take all required classes for your majors. This factor can be an issue for many adult learners, especially those who work full-time.

If you want to graduate on time, you may need to take an intense course load, but if not, you’ll need to attend an additional semester or two to fulfill all requirements.

Miss Out on Extra-curricular Activities

With the extra time you need to spend studying, you may have less time to pursue other activities when seeking a second degree. That’s why when deciding whether to go back to school and get the second degree, don’t forget to consider other aspects of your life, like extracurriculars or internship programs — which all can be adversely affected by the demands of your program.

While the challenges of going back to school as an adult learner are real, they’re not hardships that you’ll need to take on alone. By enrolling in programs made for students like you, you’ll quickly find yourself in an environment that understands the obstacles that come with it, such as those mentioned — helping you overcome each issue with ease.

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