Applying For College As An Adult: What, Me Worry?

Going back to school can be intimidating, especially if you’ve been away for a while or, most especially, if you never went. Don’t worry – a little anxiety is perfectly normal. You might be concerned about being in a new environment or about the intellectual challenges school will bring. Maybe you worry about having enough time. Whatever your concerns, there is one thing you should not worry about – namely, the application process. This essay discusses three parts of the application process and explains why applications should not interfere with your academic goals.

SAT and ACT Scores
For many high school students, one of the most intimidating aspects of applying for college admission is taking the SAT or ACT. For millions of these college-hopefuls, these exams determine their fate – where they get in and what, if any, financial aid they will receive. The question is: if high school students get worked-up over these exams after being in an academic environment for most of their lives, then how should you – an adult student – feel about the prospect of taking these tests after being away from school for years? The answer: you should not be concerned in the least.

The fact is that many adult education or continuing education programs do not require tests like the SAT or ACT for admissions. Administrators realize that test results for adult students will likely prove inaccurate and are not necessarily good predictors of academic success. Granted, some programs may still require the SAT or ACT. If so, it may be a good idea to enroll in a prep course that caters to adult students. Just remember that these tests are not as important for adults as they are for high-school-age applicants, and test scores will ultimately be weighed against other factors, such as relevant work experience and other intangibles, which most adult students have in spades.

Unlike test scores, essays will probably be required with every college application. The good news is that essays provide adult students with an edge. The reason is that adult students have a great deal of real-world experience, which is great fodder for essays. Essays are designed to tell the admissions committee who the applicant is, what they are capable of, and how their unique life experience will contribute to their success as a student. And because adult students have a broader range of experience to draw from, essays are far more advantageous for them than for high-school-age applicants. Just let your work speak for itself.

Although essays will inform the admissions committee that you possess certain intangibles, such as experience or desire, the committee will also want to see numbers. As such, part of the application might include a high school transcript or GED scores. Committees realize that just because an applicant earned a poor grade in a class fifteen years ago, it doesn’t mean they’re doomed to the same fate now. What they are looking for is a broad academic picture. Thus, adult students in reasonably good standing shouldn’t have any problems, even with a few questionable marks here and there. Students whose transcripts are lacking are not doomed either, but they may need to show evidence of academic progress in other areas, such as work or perhaps in a non-credit continuing education course. Remember that if grades and transcripts don’t tell the real story, you simply need to find another way to demonstrate your academic potential.

Back in high school, academics were the focus of your life. So even though applying to college may have been frustrating and time-consuming, it was at least familiar. Applying as an adult, however, forces you to engage in the sort of work you may not have done in a long time. But the truth is the application process will probably be easier now than was when you were a teenager. The important thing is to play to your strengths and provide an honest assessment of your academic potential. Let the admissions committee take care of the rest.

Benjamin Welch has been a college instructor in writing and composition for nearly six years. When he’s not teaching or playing golf, he writes articles about online degrees, adult education and careers. Find more of Ben’s work, as well as information on colleges and universities by visiting