How To Enroll in a Community College as an Adult

Putting Fears Aside

Photo of an adult student

Go back to school!

I don't even know you, yet I can tell you, going back to school is the best thing you can do for yourself financially. Ours is the age of information...the more informed we are, the more we can earn. Our society has reached a point where lifelong learning is essential. Stop procrastinating, make your future more than it could be if you were to just stick to the status quo.

  1. Put your fears aside! Jump in! If you're afraid of being the oldest one in your class, GET OVER YOURSELF! I have had people in their 50's and 60's in my classes and let me tell you, they bring a lot more to the table than their teeny-bopper counterparts. Professors appreciate adult students. You know why? Because they know that the adult students are there with a purpose and that will show in their work and in their participation.
  2. Gather information and your resources! If there is more than one community college in your area collect course catalogs from each school. These are typically available online, through the mail, or you can drop in to the administrative building and pick one up in person. 
  3. Consider your area of interest. What skill set are you trying to improve?
  4. Look through the course catalogs, read the descriptions of the classes which pertain to your area of interest. Choose the school that offers the most in your chosen field. If the schools seem fairly equal in their course offerings, base your decision on proximity to your job and/or home and on their fee per credit hour.
  5. Choose which classes you need for the upcoming semester (the counselor will provide guidance if you have a difficult time with this) and which of those work best with your personal schedule.
  6. Make an appointment! Some community colleges have counselors specifically for adult education. Others lump all students under the guidance of an admissions counselor. Call your chosen school and ask to speak with admissions. Once you get admissions on the phone, tell them that you are a non-traditional student seeking to continue your education. Set up an appointment to have a sit-down with the appropriate admissions counselor.
  7. Tell the counselor exactly what it is you are hoping to achieve by returning to school. Do you hope to earn an associate's degree or are you interested in a technical certificate? Are you going as a non-degree seeking student? Remember nothing is set in stone. You may begin being only interested in taking a few classes to earn a certificate and then change your mind and want to earn an associate's degree. You may take a class you never would have considered on your own and find that you enjoy it. That may launch you into a completely new direction.
  8. Be flexible with your goals. Furthering your education may teach you things about yourself that you never knew.
  9. Register for classes. Most community colleges are open admission, so you don't have to wait for an acceptance letter. The day you go in to enroll is the day you sign up for your classes. This will be when you're glad to have already looked through the course catalogs. Your admissions counselor will help you determine which classes you can take during the upcoming semester.
  10. Make sure to fill out a FAFSA (financial aid). You may think you don't qualify but you won't know until you turn one in. Every little bit helps. Also ask the school if you would be able to receive any scholarships or grants. Ask your employer if they have some kind of reimbursement program, many employers do.

Community colleges are experts in working with the non-traditional student. You're not the first adult to go back to school. The admissions counselors are there to help you and guide you through continuing your education. Just take a settling breath and go register for some classes. It's a rewarding experience you will never regret.

Put your fears aside and go. It may open doors you never even bothered dreaming of.

Gwenn Bailey is a trained Christian Life Coach, mother of 3 little boys, an unwilling divorcee, full-time student and housekeeper. You can visit her website at

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