Overcoming the Fear of Going Back to School
by Lisa A. Vella
You've been out of high school for several years. It is with great
fear and trepidation that you considered going to college to further your education
and ultimately your career. But you did it anyway. You decided to take that huge step toward your dreams to be the best you possible. Now how do you overcome all
Anyone who's been out of an academic setting for a number of years understands
first hand all the anxieties associated with going back to school. After being out
of high school for only five years, I had all sorts of worries. It wasn't like
there was one concern to overcome and then the rest would all come together. There
were lots of reasons to be afraid and that's why the thought of higher education
sets off the panic button for so many.
One of the easiest explanations for peoples' hesitation to go back to school is the
simple, honest fear of failure – especially for those who didn't excel in high
school. Adults returning to school understand that they are living entirely
different lifestyles than when they were teens. Gone are the carefree days of
teenage life and in their stead lies the heavy responsibilities of adulthood.
Many nontraditional students have jobs, families, and sometimes even other
obligations like church or volunteer commitments to balance. How to manage all of
that plus school makes failure seem a likely possibility. Failing classes,
inability to keep up at work, and falling short with familial duties plague the
They did mine. When I went back to school, I was a single mom of one and I worked a
full-time job. I had no spouse to help me, so all the responsibilities of tending
to the daily tasks of living like meal planning, house chores and repairs, and
keeping up with vehicle maintenance rested on me alone. My life already seemed full
and overwhelming and I wondered how on earth I could go to school and get good
grades with all that to juggle on my own.
Of course, fears of the unknown can seem equally as terrifying as the fear of
failure. Even though the campus I was going to was relatively small in comparison
to some colleges, it seemed huge and intimidating to me. I didn't know how I would
ever find my way around, or if I could even make it from one class to the next
without getting lost or being late.
One of my biggest worries about going back to school was how to make sure my
daughter would get enough of my time. She was the most important part of my life.
Ultimately, she was also my main motivation for going back to school. I wanted to
give her the best life possible – a home, decent clothes, food. But even more than
that, I wanted to give her an understanding that my life goals were important to me
and that mama could do anything she put her mind to – and so could she.
How to Allay Your Concerns
The "unknowns" are as numerous as the "potential failures." The good news is that
many of those concerns can be alleviated by taking a few simple steps to build your
confidence and give you assurance.