Overcoming Challenges for Adult Learners: Strategies from a Successful Student

Find out about common challenges and helpful strategies for adult learners from the uniquely qualified perspective of Roberta N., an NMSU Global Campus employee and graduate student. Get her valuable insights on how to earn a degree with a full-time job and family.

Roberta N., MBA Class of '24

Roberta N. is a highly successful student and employee here at NMSU Global Campus who embodies resilience and determination. Despite navigating numerous responsibilities and challenges, she shows an unwavering commitment to her education. We think she’s a great role model for adult learners everywhere.

Deciding to go back to school and earn a degree while juggling the demands of a full-time job and a family can seem daunting. Let us guide you through taking the first steps as we share Roberta’s experiences and wisdom. We’ll explore common obstacles adult learners face and offer practical strategies to overcome them.

Meet Roberta – A Student Success Story

Roberta N., MBA Class of '24

Roberta is a full-time instructional technology specialist at NMSU Global Campus, a devoted mother, and one of our remarkable graduate students. She earned her bachelor’s degree while already managing the demands of a busy life. She went on to get her MBA and is graduating with a Master of Arts in Educational Learning Technologies from NMSU Global Campus.

Roberta exemplifies the tenacity that defines our learning community. Her insights are an invaluable resource for adult learners contemplating how and if they can return to school.

“I have always told myself education is one thing that can never be taken from me. I know it may be scary, and you may not know where to start, but you begin by taking that first step in reaching your educational goals.”

Roberta N., Class of 2024

Transitioning to Online Learning

Like many adult learners, Roberta was used to face-to-face classroom settings. She faced an unexpected transition from traditional classroom learning to online learning. Still, she accepted the change with determination and optimism.

Roberta encountered some initial challenges in adapting. However, with resilience and ingenuity, she quickly learned how to thrive in her courses, embracing the advantages of online education.

New to online learning? Enroll in a short, skill-focused microlearning course from NMSU Global Campus before starting a degree program with us.

a group of people holding flowers

Student, Parent, Professional

Roberta’s perseverance extends beyond her academic pursuits; she tackles the balance of work, family, and education with dedication and strength.

On a typical weekday when classes are in session, she works from 8 to 5, then at 5:01, she is on the couch with her laptop, diving into her studies. Her family knows that is the time she has reserved to be a student.

Later, we will share Roberta’s strategies for managing life’s different responsibilities while putting forth your best work as a student.

Career Growth and Staying Relevant

Driven by her passion for continuous learning and professional development, Roberta saw her decision to pursue a master’s in educational learning technologies as a pathway to staying relevant in her field and advancing her career.

Through her degree program, she is gaining invaluable insights and practical skills that directly benefit her work performance, enabling her to make meaningful contributions as an instructional technology specialist at NMSU Global Campus.

Common Obstacles Faced by Adult Learners

“It might be hard for others who haven’t been to school in a long time… I was always the oldest person in all my classes. It was an eye-opening experience, but it also made me realize that you’re never too old to pursue an education.”

Roberta N., Class of 2024

Balancing Tuition Fees and Living Expenses

Many adult learners face financial constraints when considering their education, as they must weigh the cost of tuition fees against their existing living expenses.

NMSU Global Campus prides itself on being one of the most affordable options for degree-seekers in the state and beyond. New Mexico State University awards over $100 million each year in scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study funds to its on-campus and online students.

Students unfamiliar with the aid application process can also get personalized help from a Financial Aid Advisor.

Juggling Work, Family, and Education

a man and woman taking a selfie

Adults who want to return to school often struggle with demands on their time. Finding moments to study can be challenging.

Flexible online degree programs, like those at NMSU Global Campus, can work around busy schedules, offering asynchronous courses and self-paced or part-time degree programs.

Feeling Out of Place as an Adult Learner

Adult learners might struggle with self-doubt, the perception of not belonging, or external resistance from peers or teachers. It’s one reason why choosing the right online learning community is essential.

NMSU Global Campus celebrates its students’ unique journeys and values their diverse life experiences. Our staff and faculty strive to foster educational environments where adult learners can find validation, understanding, and encouragement to excel in their program.

Roberta’s Journey: Inspiring Others

Roberta’s personal experiences resonate deeply with many of the challenges adults face returning to school. Having overcome external resistance in her bachelor’s program while navigating child care and a career, she is a testament to the tenacity of adult learners.

By choosing NMSU Global Campus to continue her academic and professional journey, Roberta can now guide and mentor other adult learners whose shoes she has been in.

6 Success Strategies for Working Adults Earning an Online Degree

Drawing from Roberta’s personal experiences and challenges, we’ve curated a set of strategies tailored to adult learners balancing work, family, and online education.

1. Call in Your Support Network

Earning a degree while managing a full-time job and family responsibilities is challenging, but having a solid support network can make it more manageable.

Share your educational goals with the people you value and discuss how they can support you. Whether it’s assistance with household tasks, child care arrangements, or emotional encouragement, involving your family, friends, and coworkers can provide invaluable support.

“[My husband] has been a huge help. He makes sure that dinner gets done, that everybody gets fed, and he pampers me while I’m in student mode, which I really appreciate.”

Roberta N., Class of 2024

2. Take Small Steps towards Big Goals

Tackling multiple responsibilities requires effective time management. Break your tasks into smaller, more manageable steps rather than trying to work on everything at once.

Use short pockets of time throughout your day to chip away at assignments or review course material. You can make steady progress towards your larger academic goals by consistently dedicating small increments of time to your studies.

“If you just take 20-30 minutes of your day to step away and work on an assignment or to put some effort into something that is going to be due in your course… before you know it, you’re already done.”

Roberta N., Class of 2024

3. Use Built-in Learning Tools and Apps

Online learning platforms offer a variety of features to help you stay organized and on track. To effectively manage your coursework, familiarize yourself with these resources, such as course calendars, task reminders, and discussion boards.

NMSU Global Campus students use the Canvas app, where they can easily access course materials, stay informed about upcoming deadlines, and engage with peers and instructors.

“I’m looking through my courses, making lists of what needs to be done, using some of the tools already built into Canvas to monitor my work, using the modules within the course, and using the calendar.”

Roberta N., Class of 2024

4. Turn to Your Online Community

While online learning may seem impersonal, NMSU Global Campus understands that genuine connections are essential for academic success. We create spaces for peers and instructors to build supportive relationships.

Engage with your online community through discussion boards and collaborative assignments. Connecting with fellow students and faculty members can provide motivation, support, and a sense of belonging throughout your degree program.

“I have learned how important it is to interact with not only your professor but with the other students in the course. A sense of community is such a wonderful experience. It reassures you that you are not alone in your educational journey.”

Roberta N., Class of 2024

5. Speak Up, Ask Questions

Don’t hesitate to ask questions, seek clarification, or share your insights with your instructors and peers. Online learning offers various avenues for communication and collaboration, such as discussion boards and email.

By actively participating in your courses and seeking support when needed, you enhance your and your classmates’ understanding. Participation can also build confidence in your academic abilities.

“As long as you’re willing to take that first step, be the first one, ask that first question, I think you also gain confidence and start feeling a little bit more relaxed.”

Roberta N., Class of 2024

6. Stay Connected to Your Motivation

As you balance work, family, and education, it’s essential to remember why you started pursuing your degree in the first place. Reflect on your motivation, whether that’s advancing your career, setting an example for your children, or personal growth.

Keep your goals front and center, drawing inspiration from them if you feel burnt out. Remember that each course and each assignment you complete is an impressive milestone.

“I have always pushed myself because I want to set an example for my children of what can be achieved through hard work and dedication.”

Roberta N., Class of 2024

Go Back to School with NMSU Global Campus

NMSU Global Campus offers more than 70 online degrees and certificates. Our programs are consistently ranked as top tier by U.S. News & World Report, Best Value Schools, Niche, and Best Colleges Online. We’re also proud to have one of the most affordable tuition rates in New Mexico, with flexible learning pathways that meet the diverse needs of our students.

As Roberta’s story demonstrates, achieving your educational goals is within reach. For anyone juggling work, family, and other responsibilities, NMSU Global Campus supports you every step of the way. Are you ready to take the next step in your academic journey?

Submit your free online application to NMSU Global Campus today and join a community of fantastic learners like Roberta.

About New Mexico State University Global Campus

A group of NMSU students sitting posing for the camera

At NMSU Global Campus, our mission is to help prepare the next generation of leaders. We focus on offering high-quality education that spans a multitude of disciplines and career pathways. Whether you’re seeking a degree or certification in teaching, science, engineering, healthcare, business, or others, we provide exciting opportunities that can help shape your future. 

NMSU Global Campus is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), with specialized accreditation offered for some programs. We offer flexible, career-focused 100% online courses and degree options in New Mexico, across the nation, and around the globe. Start your journey with our accessible and affordable degree options.