Empowering Adult Learners: A Guide to Meaningful Support on Their Educational Journey

Male adult student wearing headset with female instructor collaborating at a computer.

Embarking on the journey of education as an adult is a commendable endeavor, laden with unique challenges that require a robust support system. The adult student, juggling work, family, and academic commitments, navigates a complex landscape where every bit of support becomes pivotal. In this article, we delve into the crucial role friends and family play in bolstering adult learners. We explore five impactful ways in which these support networks can be the pillars that make the difference in an adult student’s educational pursuit.

5 Ways To Support The Adult Student In Your Life

Adult students returning to school face unique challenges. Across the United States, about 15% of American adults are currently enrolled as part-time or full-time students in college (Source).

In this blog post, we’ll explore five ways friends and family can play a pivotal role in supporting the adult students in their lives.

1. Be a Mental & Emotional Support System

Returning to school as an adult is an ambitious undertaking that requires a strong support system. Because of the physical, emotional, and financial constraints that come with the territory of returning to school as an adult learner, the Department of Education estimates 38% of adult students who start a college degree program drop out within their first year (Source).

Friends and family can foster a sense of support by offering their time and words of encouragement. Dive into a conversation about your adult student’s goals and pain points. Be an empathetic ear throughout their journey, creating a safe space for them to express their thoughts and concerns as they navigate the unfamiliar landscape of managing school alongside other responsibilities.

2. Become The Flexible Friend

Most students spend 2 – 3 hours per credit hour studying each week (Source). For an adult student enrolled part-time in 2 standard classes, or 6 credit hours each semester, that commitment can equate to more than 20 hours each week between studying and class time! Because of this substantial time commitment, time management becomes a critical part of an adult student’s life.

Be flexible with your adult student when their schedule changes suddenly or they need to devote more free time to studying. Offer a helping hand in managing time effectively—maybe jump in for childcare, tackle household chores, or just be the understanding friend when plans need a study session detour. This helps your adult student prioritize their studies and helps lay the foundation for academic success.

3. Offer Financial Help 

The long term financial implications of returning to school can be significant. Those who finish their college degree earn an annual lifetime salary that’s over 140% higher than those without a degree (Source). But that’s just the start! Adults with a college degree are 22% more likely to have children who have even better jobs in the future (Source)

However, returning to school often comes with new financial expenses. Adult students may face challenges in balancing their budgets. Friends and family can provide valuable support by offering financial guidance or assistance when possible. Help your adult student explore financial aid options, scholarships, or grants. Don’t forget to explore free programs, too. For example, Pathway To Careers helps adult students prepare for all aspects of restarting their education, including budgeting and finances. 

4. Tech-Savvy Assistance

Emerging technology plays a huge role in the modern learning landscape to prepare adult students for technology proficiency in the workplace. A recent study showed that 42% of adults with a high school diploma or less reported struggling with technology (Source). 

Friends and family can lend a hand by offering assistance with unfamiliar technology. This could involve helping with navigating a laptop or other devices, troubleshooting technological issues, or simply providing guidance on how to make their way around a virtual classroom. Checking in with your adult student’s comfort with technology provides the opportunity for them to ask questions and helps to prevent technology-frustration fueled burnout. 

5. Celebrate Milestones and Achievements

Every step forward for your adult student is a cause for celebration. Whether it’s acing an exam, completing a challenging project, or successfully balancing work and school, recognizing and celebrating these accomplishments fosters a sense of accomplishment and motivation for the journey ahead.

Being a support system for an adult student involves a mix of understanding, hands-on help, and motivation. Your active participation in their journey and offering the specific support they need to be successful plays a vital role in shaping their path to success. Together, we can shape a future where education is a collaborative effort, driven by the collective support of communities and families.

In the intricate tapestry of an adult student’s educational journey, the significance of a strong support system cannot be overstated. By being a mental and emotional anchor, offering flexibility, extending financial assistance, providing tech-savvy support, and celebrating milestones, friends and family become integral contributors to an adult learner’s success. As we actively participate in shaping the educational paths of those around us, we collectively contribute to a future where learning is a collaborative effort, fortified by the unwavering support of communities and families. In fostering this ethos, we pave the way for a society where education becomes a shared achievement, propelling individuals toward their aspirations with the collective strength of those who believe in their potential.