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Going back to school as an adult

Like many adults who return to college, Malika Simmons started out taking one or two classes at a time.

Like many adults who return to college, Malika Simmons started out taking one or two classes at a time.

Simmons, 39, plans to graduate from Medgar Evers College this spring with a bachelor’s degree in applied management. The aspiring talk-show host and mother of two teenagers, who was able to start taking classes full-time two years ago, also works in the college’s communications department and tutors math.

Simmons, who earned an associate’s degree from Kingsborough Community College in 1995, was surprised by how much faculty and students relied on technology.

“You submit your homework online,” she said. “You download your homework.”

Simmons said getting used to this was frustrating, but she asked classmates for help. In turn she contributed organizational skills and real-world experience.

Flexibility is especially important for returning students.

“They have other commitments, so schooling becomes a second or third priority,” said Rob Kurland, an associate dean at Rutgers University’s campus in Newark, N.J.

Many colleges offer accelerated degree programs that allow students to earn diplomas faster than a traditional school calendar.

Students’ families must also adjust when an adult returns to school. College classes mean less time for students’ spouses, which can be hard at first.

“Sometimes the spouse will feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick,” said James Lee, undergraduate dean at Cambridge College in Cambridge, Mass. “Then they really get behind their spouse.”

 
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