Not always easy for older students

You’re never too old to learn, it has been said, and for continuing education students, you’re never too busy to prepare for an exam. You just need to find the time.

It’s a special kind of anxiety mature students retain when they get ready for that giant term-defining test: Unlike your average undergrad, they carry added stressors such as full-time jobs and families to support, and these commitments eat into useful studying hours.

Learning techniques for adult students are also different, notes Ray deVries, a counsellor at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in Burnaby, B.C. The boon he says, is that they have a more sophisticated, experienced knowledge than those just coming out of high school, but they do face challenges: Relating the material to their lives, and being more conscious about where and how they can devote their time.


“Learning is a different game for older students,” says deVries. “They have to integrate material into their work and life experiences. They might read something and say, ‘Oh, that’s like that time at Christmas when my father and I did such and such.’ A student just coming out of high school has a smoother transition in terms of learning techniques, but because of their lack of experience, the material may not be as alive to them. Time structuring is different as well, because adult students have more to juggle.”

But students with the determination to succeed in their courses can always find a way to study for an exam, one expert says, and post-secondary institutions are making it easier to accommodate the earnest. Mental health workshops and blended learning — curriculums that mix online and in-person classes — allow a mature student some options.

“Generally, students in continuing education are pretty optimistic types,” says Jane Daines, Director of Continuing Education at York University’s Atkinson College. “This isn’t their first kick at the tire. They take advantage of their options and they already know how to focus. But oftentimes they won’t have time to study, or even come into a class. That’s why we have the blended learning courses. We all learn differently, and Internet connectivity is another option.”

Tips for the worker, an online forum for women in medicine, compiled a list of helpful tips for moms aspiring to be doctors on finding study time. You can apply these hints to your busy life too:

  • Carry a book or notes with you everywhere.

  • As short as you might think it is, try a 30-minute study session. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn in that time.

  • Give yourself a 15-minute break after about 50 minutes of study. When you start re-reading the same thing over again, or your mind drifts, take another break.

  • Wherever you are, make sure where you study is comfortable and has everything you need close at hand.