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Excel as a Nontraditional Student

If you’re returning to school after a long period away, you may face additional challenges. Take the right steps to stay focused and on track to earn your diploma as you balance your work, home and military life.

Plan your re-entry into school to save headaches, time and money. Consider the following suggestions as you prepare to return to the classroom.

Use industry-leading assessments. Assessments can help you choose the best education and career options for you. Assess your values and skills using self-assessments like Traitify and the Strong Interest Explorer.

Narrow your interests. Use the MySECO Research Occupations tool and the Occupational Outlook Handbook to find job descriptions, work environments, education/licensure requirements and salaries for hundreds of occupations.

Investigate programs and schools. Read Choosing a College: The Basics and Resources for Choosing a School. Use the College Search and College Scorecard tools to narrow your search.

Do your financial homework. Use the Know Before You Owe Shopping Sheet to develop an education budget. See if you are eligible for the My Career Advancement Account Scholarship. Search for scholarships, loans and financial aid using the following resources:

Locate a mentor. Look for a mentor in your career field to discuss schools, programs, suggested coursework, internships and activities. For more information on finding the perfect mentor for your specific needs, read Military Spouse Mentoring Programs on MySECO.

If you are working, have a family or are returning to school after a long period away from the classroom, your challenges may differ from a high school student going directly to college. Set reasonable expectations and goals.

  • Start slowly. Avoid the temptation to overload your schedule. Get a sense of course work and exams schedules throughout the term. Consider enrolling in less demanding courses until you get in the groove. Take fewer credits and excel instead of struggling with too many courses.
  • Structure your schedule. Know your syllabus, follow it closely and use it to plan your calendar. Schedule regular study times each week. Carry reading materials or homework for those extra minutes waiting for a doctor's appointment or during your child's sports practice.
  • Set reasonable expectations of yourself and others. It may take time for your family to adjust to your new schedule, a new sitter or take-out meals instead of home cooking. Enlist their assistance, address their concerns, be patient and reward them and yourself as you meet your milestones.

Ease your transition back to school by using the following tips and resources:

  • Develop new study skills, relearn past coursework and become familiar with new technologies.
  • The Education, Training and Licensing lifecycle stage of MySECO offers practice tests, study guides and tips and coursework on a wide range of subjects to get you started.
  • Technology Tutorials provide a range of courses for refreshing or learning technology skills.
  • Tutoring support, study guides and study groups may be available to you in person or online. Check with your academic advisor, teacher or fellow students for information.
  • Visit your installation's adult education center for additional guidance and information. Use the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS tool to search by installation, state or program to find the information relevant to you. Select 'adult education centers' from the list of programs and services and your installation or ZIP code to find a point of contact near you.

Plan your schedule to find time for education in your busy routine. You can succeed by setting reasonable goals and making wise use of your resources. Prepare for challenges before they occur, but if you get overwhelmed, contact a SECO career coach for support by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647. For additional guidance, use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website.

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