Online learners overcome fears of returning to college

July 21, 2021

Part 1: Time and age

It’s natural to fear new things and changes; deciding to return to school is no exception. In a series of recent interviews, Alamo Colleges students shared with us their biggest concerns about returning to college and the ways they’ve overcome their fears. Despite their diverse histories, many students shared two common fears: time and age.

Angela Dominguez, a Northeast Lakeview College student, was hesitant to try online learning. She feared she was too old, despite her career success. She shares, “I’ve had a couple of people in my life make comments like, ‘you’re too old to go back to school. You’ll never make it.”

St. Philip's College student Valentin Lucero, who became a first-time college student after spending 25 years in the workforce, feared that he’d be unable to grasp the new technology needed to succeed in online learning.

For others, bouts of insecurity surfaced. The more time spent away from school, the more insecure they felt before enrolling and during their first semesters.

Madora Bianco, a Northwest Vista College student, shares, “One of the biggest reasons I didn’t come back was because I felt like a huge failure after the last time I left school. I had a lot of insecurity about it. Why would I waste money on it because obviously, I’m going to fail?”

Rational or not, these fears are real and hold students back, yet, like these students, you can still overcome them. 

Know you can do the work and have the skills.

Although you may have been out of school for some time, you have life experience, which is transferable. Trust that you have the skills you need to succeed. Online learning is an opportunity to apply and enhance those skills. For example, Madora Bianco rediscovered her willpower when she enrolled and became an online student.  Being a student is an opportunity to use your perseverance, your dedication, and your courage. As Northwest Vista College student Ashley Terrell shares, “Success happens on the other side of uncomfortable—just go for it.”

Set your own pace and make your plan.

Take one or two classes at a time to ease into being a student. For example, Madora Bianco notes, “It’s been kind of nice to be able to take a class or two and slowly scale myself up to the point where I can actually be a functional student.” So take charge and make your own plan.

Use the experience you’ve gained from the workforce in your courses.

For example, you’ve likely learned many “life skills” such as discipline, organization, and communication, all of which can help you in your online courses. Whether communicating with instructors or classmates or dedicating time to your schoolwork, you have durable skills to apply and ensure your success. Use what you’ve learned in life and apply it to school!

Remind yourself of your long-term goals, whether you want to expand your professional opportunities or set a positive example for your children.

Jennifer Perez, a Palo Alto College graduate,  shares, “I was thinking that I needed something to leave for my children. I wanted to show my children that it didn’t matter how old you were or when you went to college as long as you went.”

Take it one step at a time and ask for help.

Permit yourself to ask for help! Use the resources at our five Alamo Colleges and in your life as you make this transition. From enrollment coaches to academic advisors to compassionate, knowledgeable instructors to family members who want you to succeed, know your support systems and use them.

While you might feel too old or that too much time has passed know that neither is true. Others have overcome this fear, and so can you!

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