Choosing a college as an adult student

To be honest, being an adult is hard! You may be juggling life as an employee, spouse, parent, pet owner, volunteer and/or community member! If you return to college , you’ll add student to that growing list. Are you considering an on-campus, online, virtual or accelerated program? Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are choosing a college as an adult student.

On campus

When you think about college, the image of a sprawling tree-lined campus is likely the first to come to mind. Adult students can and do take undergraduate classes with traditional undergraduate students. This option provides in-person, face-to-face learning in a structured environment. On-campus options also allow you to meet classmates to study with and grow your network.

However, the traditional structure is not designed specifically for working adults. If you choose this route, you may not be able to pursue you studies while maintaining full-time employment. Because of this, some schools offer night and weekend class options for working adults.


Online programs are convenient because you receive lessons, turn in assignments and get feedback without stepping foot on campus. However, the quality and style of classes online can vary greatly depending on the school and faculty. Some online classes include recorded lectures or slideshows of material you’ll need to review at a time convenient to you. This is convenient if you like studying at 3 a.m.! However, even though you are taking classes online, you’ll likely still interact with classmates. Many online classes include writing prompts which are submitted via online message boards. You may even be given group assignments.

Remember, when you sign up for an online program, you’ll have to be diligent . Time management is key to ensure your work is getting done. At the same time, you’ll benefit from being able to continue your studies even when traveling.

Virtual classroom

Taking a class via videoconferencing software such as Zoom provides flexibility and convenience while maintaining the benefits of in-person interactions between faculty and classmates. You can join from anywhere in the world without a commute, and you’ll be able to talk lessons utilizing break-out session tools. This option also allows you to continue your studies when you are away from home for work, family commitments or vacation!

Networking is one of the greatest benefits of being a part of program that meets virtually. These connections could result in job or business opportunities. For others, classroom connections lead to real-world friendships. You’ll also become more comfortable with technology and develop new skills for the workplace.

Accelerated programs

Many schools divide their programs for working adults into six- or eight-week chunks. This will allow you to focus on one class at a time. For example, you’ll take Management for six weeks and then switch to Communication for the next six weeks. However, some colleges offer accelerated programs for students who want to graduate in a shorter amount of time. Thus, students take two courses at the same time. However, balancing the demands of an accelerated course schedule and working full-time will be challenging.

Choosing a college as an adult student

No matter the type of program you choose, it’s important to pick a college where you feel connected to the experience and supported as a student.

If you think you are ready, check out this blog for four questions to ask yourself before going back to school as an adult!

At Bluffton University…

Are you prepared to start your college journey as an adult student? Now is the time check out the benefits of Bluffton University.

Enrollment counselor Shelby Koenig ’18, MBA ’22 can relate to your struggles as a working adult returning to school. She recently completed her MBA through Bluffton’s one-night-a-week program held over Zoom.

“The face-to-face time with faculty and classmates through videoconferencing is invaluable. It holds you accountable and keeps you better engaged with the course content than a program where you work at your own pace,” shared Koenig.

Written by Tricia Bell, content manager