Returning to college? Here are some tips to help women succeed

Reasons for returning to school are as varied as the women who elect to return to college. It may be the feeling of unfinished business for the degree left incomplete some years ago, an empty nest, a divorce, an economy forcing career changes or simply self-fulfillment. If any of these scenarios fits you, welcome to the ranks of the thousands of women returning to college this year.

"Research indicates that returning female college students tend to succeed; most notably, the really busy women," says Dr. Maureen Nixon, dean of academic affairs at South University in Virginia Beach. "So, even if you have been out of school for a while, busy women bring a clear advantage to their studies such as life experience, perspective, and analytical and critical thinking skills."
In her role, Nixon works with many busy college students and offers the following tips for success to both men and women.
1. Create a schedule. Most people lead pretty full lives with never a spare moment and now you are adding classes and study time. Create a schedule utilizing a weekly calendar, blocking off class times and specific study times. Be sure to delegate chores that everyone can do. If you have children, help them feel connected to your role as a student by giving them new responsibilities that support your efforts.
2. Have a backup plan for child care. All working parents encounter the need for a backup plan for child care for their job. Pursuing your advanced degree is no different. Even if you have a partner who fully supports you, there may be a night when work intervenes in his/her life as well and everyone’s stress level will be much lower with a backup plan in place.
3. Enlist the support of family or friends. Attempting to balance work and family life while adding education into the mix can be tough. If possible, gain the help of those around you in supporting your schedule. You become a role model for your children, nieces, nephews and even friends when you demonstrate the importance of your education.
Although this suggestion may work for some women, research indicates that first generation college students sometimes receive little, if any, family support. Nixon suggests that you find support from other people if you are in this position. "Team up with other students, exchange contact information with a classmate for each class you are taking, and perhaps most importantly, locate and utilize the resources that you need on campus such as your instructors, librarians or tutors," she says.
4. Plan rewards. Keep in mind that living on "overload" is only for a specific frame of time, not forever. Build small rewards into each study session if needed or at the end of the term. When you reach the successful end of a term, plan something with your family or friends that you haven’t been able to do with the time constraints of your classes.
5. Learn to say "no." Refine your schedule so only the essential fills your hours. Although you may be reluctant to give up certain meaningful activities, ask yourself if you can return to this activity upon completion of your degree. Is it worth the sacrifice for future returns on your career goals?
Put a plan into place to ensure attaining your goal and you will join the ranks of those who walk across the stage in cap and gown, degree in hand, with a world of opportunity awaiting you.