Student Health And Counseling Services

Topic - Non-Traditional Students

Transitions - Adults Returning to School

When we add “college student” to our already long list of roles, which often include employee, partner, and parent, the transition can be surprisingly trying. The expectations placed on a student are different than the expectations we experience in our other walks of life. This means that at the same time we are learning our coursework, we have to learn to adjust to life as a student again.

Why are transitions so difficult?

The excitement of returning to school may carry us through the first few days or weeks of classes. Sooner or later, we can start to feel some of the burdens of wearing multiple hats. Learning how to switch roles is essential for success as a student. Here are some signs that you are struggling with transitioning to your new role as a student:

  • Difficulty finding time to study
  • Trouble balancing all of your responsibilities
  • Feeling like the “oldest person on campus”
  • Not finding the services you need
  • Getting thoroughly frustrated with little things (like finding a parking space)
  • Experiencing the feeling that you will never complete your degree
  • Feeling like “throwing in the towel”

Ease the transition

Often knowing that we are supported in our decision to return to school can make all the difference in our adjustment to being a student. Some ways that we can create a support system include:

Enlist your community

  • Exchange childcare with a friend or neighbor to create some interruption-free study time.
  • Work out a schedule to alternate meal preparation with another busy family or family member.
  • Speak with members of your church, community groups, clubs or even your neighbors about ways they can help. Some groups may offer scholarships, while others may be able to help out in other ways, like raking your yard during midterms. It can be surprising how much others are willing to help.
  • Utilize the resources at your local library.
  • Find another UWRF student to commute with. Even if you can only do it once in a while, this is a great opportunity to get to know someone who understands what you are experiencing and give yourself a break from driving.

Get your “significant other” involved in your education

  • If possible, arrange to bring your partner to campus for a day. When your partner is familiar with where you are and who you are with, they are able to be even more supportive of your decisions.
  • Bring them to a social event on campus.
  • Ask your partner to go on a “study date” with you. This can be a fun way for your partner to experience what you’re learning and for you to get some studying done.
  • Bring the kids to campus for ice cream. Keeping your children involved makes it easier for them to understand when you have to study.
  • Set a time each week with a family member or friend, in which you can talk uninterrupted about your school life.
  • Remember to thank your family/friends for their support, your recognition of their support will encourage them to be even more supportive! It’s a great cycle to get into.

Stay healthy

When you are juggling our coursework, jobs, and families it is easy to let your healthy habits slide. We all know that exercise reduces stress and increase productivity. What isn’t so obvious is the toll that missing classes due to illness can have on grades.

Learn to say “No”

You don’t have to be a superhero who takes on every task offered. Turn down some things now and then and you will be able to better complete the tasks you accept.

Making the transition to college student means adjusting socially, academically, and maybe even financially. This can be a difficult stage but that’s what it is, a stage. If you find that you are struggling or if you feel you would like to talk to someone about this challenging time, please contact Counseling Services.

Special Thanks UW-Oshkosh's Counseling Center for the content


These Links and Resources may also be helpful

UWRF Financial Aid Office - Resources for financial aid

UWRF Adult Learner Opportunities - Resources for Adult Learners

UWRF Academic Success Services - Study Skills Resources

Mayo Clinic:Adjustment Disorders

Page updated Summer 2017 by Mark Huttemier, MA, LPC - Personal Counselor in Student Health and Counseling at University of Wisconsin – River Falls

Contact Us

Student Health and Counseling Services
Student Health Services: 715-425-3293
Counseling Services: 715-425-3884
M-F, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
211 Hagestad Hall