Nearly 10 million adults, age 25 and older, will be enrolling in college by the year 2025, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Adult students, also known as non-traditional students, are the fastest growing education demographic, and colleges are making it easier for adults to return to school by creating online degree programs, implementing generous transfer policies and offering accelerated programs with flexible schedules.
In some cases, earning a degree online through an accelerated program combines the convenience of online learning with the ability to reach career goals faster. Common accelerated degree programs are now offering five, seven and 10-week courses as compared to a traditional college semester that can be as long as 16 weeks.
Nina Truckenmiller, a Panama native, wife and mother, tried more than one school before graduating from New England College’s accelerated online degree program in 2016. Truckenmiller felt comfortable earning her bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration through NEC.
“When I found NEC, I liked that it was a lot more affordable than other schools, it was not-for-profit, and it fit my busy schedule when I was working 40 hours a week, only having one class every seven weeks,” Truckenmiller said. “In the last year of my studies, I was able to quit my job and had the option to take an additional class every term. That spare time allowed me to graduate even faster.”
Typical bachelor’s degree programs, which can be about 120 credit hours, can take about four years to complete. An accelerated program makes it easier for students to finish sooner. NEC’s courses are four credit hours each (versus three-hour courses at other schools) and offered during seven-week sessions, seven times a year, allowing students to take fewer courses to earn their degrees faster. Students can earn a bachelor’s degree in about two and a half years under the accelerated format.
Pros and Cons of Accelerated Programs
Although accelerated programs can save time, they are not for everyone. Accelerated programs are recommended for those willing to dive into their courses with the goal and motivation to graduate sooner. Courses will cover the same amount of information in a shorter amount of time.
By learning the same amount of information in seven weeks versus a 16-week semester term, it’s likely students may have to spend more time on reading, studying and completing assignments per week than a traditional 16-week course. However, by remaining focused and diligent with coursework, students may perform better in tests than traditional courses, according to Get Educated, an online education resource website.
Tips for Success
Developing good study habits can help students meet educational and career goals. Habits matter and in order to create new ones or break bad ones, mastering the three Rs; reminder, routine and reward, can do the trick. According to motivational author James Clear, all habits follow the three Rs:
- Reminder: This is the trigger that starts the behavior.
- Routine: This is the action, or habit itself.
- Reward: What is gained from the action.
Positive study habits can include planning out schoolwork around due dates, finding a quiet space to study without distractions and keeping a task list to check off as items are completed. In order to stick to good habits, students must hone in on time management skills and stay motivated and determined, especially when juggling multiple responsibilities.
Judilyn Mathis, a North Carolina native, earned a BS in Healthcare Administration through NEC’s accelerated online degree program in 2016. Mathis credits part of her success to careful planning and time management as she balanced family and work as an allied health program assistant at a North Carolina community college.
Mathis came up with study strategies that worked for her, including daily lists of what assignments were due and when. She also studied for a couple of hours each night after work, which usually allowed her to finish coursework by Friday, freeing up weekends for friends and family.
“The real key to being successful and earning a degree online is to be motivated and to truly want it,” Mathis said. “College is hard but very rewarding. If you keep up and stay engaged, you will reap the benefits of the classes and what they have to offer,” she said.
NEC graduate Nancy Werner of Hicksville, N.Y., focused on making a plan, pacing herself and working ahead as she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration/Management in 2016. Werner balanced a full-time job, motherhood and cancer treatment while completing her degree online. Werner stayed on track by planning out schoolwork on Sundays, and finishing on Thursdays and pacing herself by checking out lessons ahead of time to schedule study time accordingly.
“Online classes allowed me to do the assignments on my time schedule, which made it priceless,” she said.