Monday, January 4, 2016

How to make the return to post-secondary school comfortable as a mature student

This is a long one so please sit back and enjoy the tips.

My journey to nursing school is still in motion and has not been a smooth ride. Many hurtles have been jumped over and I am still getting over many humps. When I initially started on my journey, it was not smooth. I had been out of secondary school for a long time. My days of writing university papers and taking tests were a thing of the past. As an adult, I was dealing with work-place bureaucracy and politics. Trying to break through that ever-heightening glass ceiling. Travel. Bills. Being an adult. So, when I chose to return to school, I had to mentally prepare myself for change.

Change came in the form of receiving less income. Revised, less or no health care benefits. Long hours tackling homework and assignments. Carrying a very heavy backpack. Loud younger people. Long hours glued to a desk. Initially, I felt out of my element. I couldn’t get a firm grasp on my life. I was all over the place in a huge sea and sinking fast. May sound dramatic, but as an adult out of school 10+ years, it was a reality. After getting help from the school advisors (employ their skills as this service is already factored in the tuition you paid), I felt a bit better. I remember taking a Friday night off (something I never did again) and relaxing. The next day, after work, I sought out ways that could help my journey. I needed help. If you need some assistance as a mature student returning to school, here are a few things I did that greatly helped me.

Firstly, invest in and USE got a good planner. You don’t need to go all Erin Condrin (although she had amazing planners) but something with enough space so you can write out what you need to do daily, is ideal. Also ensure your planner has a month at a view section with enough space for writing in per month. This is where you will record your tests, exams, quizzes, due dates for all assignments - per month. Take a look at this page at least daily to ensure you are know exactly what is coming up when.

Creating a daily or weekly schedule. This may sound weird but having a schedule that is created once a week or daily with homework assignments and to-do’s is a good thing to have. (At the end of this, I will have a link that explains exactly how this is created)
Invest in a desk calendar. I bought a $5.00 desk calendar and mounted on my wall in front of my desk. This was a nice visual remider of what I needed to do while studying. It kept me organized and I never forgot an assigment. HIGHLY Recommended.

Get the proper calculator that your professors advises (wait until your first math class before you actually make the investment and heed the advise of your professor). Also, take the time and get to know how your calculator actually works. Sounds easy but trust me; you do not want to be trying to figure out what key is needed to change a formula to scientific notation during the middle of a lesson. Save time and jump on youtube to get a tutorial.

A set of good tools - pens, pencils, sharpies and high lighters. Don’t cheap out here because you will be doing a lot of writing and test taking. Get the best that you can afford so you don’t have to deal with broken lead or crappy pens or color running out in the middle of a rock-star study session.

A desk. I was gifted a used desk but it was just all wrong for my purposes. I needed something that was long enough where I could spread out my laptop, multiple books and papers while doing homework. Even online assignments require a good amount of desk space. The ability to stretch out and not be limited by surface space will be a life saver.

Creating study guides. This was something that I had never heard of before but found out about on a YouTube channel and loved. This can be a long process but the material will be cemented in your brain after reading direct from the book, creating study notes and re-reading on your down time. This is key. I have included a link on how to create these guides below.

Audio recording notes. At my school, recording lecture was not really prohibited unless you had a learning disability. So, I had to be creative. Before school started, I had invested in a small recorder (but a cell phone is more than fine) and needed to use it. I ended up recording the systems of the body and how they worked (i.e., the circulation of blood in and out of the heart) and lessons from chemistry on my recorder. Chemical reactions and chirality, to name a few, did not come easy or natural to me so I recorded myself reading my lectures notes. On my way to and from school, I listened to my recorded notes.

A good backpack or rolling bag. I initially was using my younger sister’s old bag and it was not good for me. I needed something with more support so I invested. Backpacks can be very expensive so wait for holiday sales. I got my Swissmar backpack for 60% less the price which is amazing and saved my back.

Comfy clothing. You will notice almost immediately how uncomfortable your clothing will be after spending hours in a library. One of my best investments was treating myself to some soft and comfy sweat clothing. I really enjoy the styles that Roots supplies but I can’t always afford them. The goal is not fashion (ok, it is but not imperative) but feeling relaxed during hours of study is. Heed my advice on this one.

Here are some really helpful websites that I look to for help and resources on my journey to becoming a nurse. I think they will help any student, mature or not. Enjoy.