In my department and classes I teach, I am fortunate to see the entire range of categories of students: traditional (18-23 years old), adult learners (up to 60 years old), veterans (any age and both traditional and adult) and international (any age). While traditional students have multiple guided opportunities and the other classes have their own support network, I see many adult learners (to include veterans) who need mentoring on their new path to their goals.

5 Things for the Adult Learner

Here are the top five things I like to make sure they understand as they jump into or continue their academic career:

1. Take your hardest or most dreaded classes as standalone.

Yes, everyone hates Summer School and no one wants to take Object Oriented Programming or Calculus II two nights a week for three hours each night for eight weeks. However, when you bunch other classes around that difficult subject, your stress levels go up astronomically. Consider enrolling in the highest hurdle in the summer where you can focus on one subject and one only.

2. Use the resources given to you.

Most larger universities have veteran learning centers who are fully staffed and equipped with all of the tools necessary for veterans to succeed academically. It also is a place you can find great peer interaction if you feel like you are on an island. True adult learning centers offer the same concept for non-veterans.

3. Take both online and in person if possible.

I realize this is impossible for some, but taking a few classes in person gives you a much better feel of the college experience, which includes verbal communication and dialogue with people with less likelihood of misinterpretation than learning virtually. I despise teaching online in a synchronous format, as I have little feel for students motivation levels and want to truly understand if the student wants to be there or not.

4. Consider a guided study or individual project class.

If this is a technical elective within your major, I recommend you consider jumping in headfirst. Why? You are an adult and perhaps a veteran and you have the experience to convey something that can be unique and fascinating to the academic community. It also is a good resume builder, especially if your study is published.

5. Seek out adjunct faculty and interact regularly with them.

For some reason, in my opinion there is often an unspoken bond between adjunct faculty, who are probably making a living in a non-academic setting, and adult learners. Maybe the comfort level of engaging a part time instructor is higher, maybe the instructor sees a bit of themselves in the student, or maybe both of them see the experience as something that commonly relevant as secondarily important to other events in their lives.

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Joe Jabara, JD, is the Director, of the Hub, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty at two other universities teaching Intelligence and Cyber Law. Prior to his current job, he served 30 years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Kansas Air National Guard. His last ten years were spent in command/leadership positions, the bulk of which were at the 184th Intelligence Wing as Vice Commander.