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Succeed as an Adult Student

Thinking about college for the first time or want to return for more education?


If you're an adult who is thinking about getting more education to make a better life for yourself and your family, you're not alone. More and more adults are improving their skills and learning new skills by enrolling in college.


Concerned about what you might face if you went back into a classroom?

"I don't have the time."

Programs catering to adults are usually aware of your obligations to family and existing jobs. They often work with part-time students and have flexible class meeting times. Learn More.

"I didn't do well in school the first time around. I don't think a college would accept me."

Typically, community colleges and career schools have an open admissions policy. They're more interested in what you can do now than in what you've done in the past. Learn More.

Changing Careers

If you know the type of career(s) that interests you and the education required, great! You can begin to look for college programs that will best prepare you for this new field.

Does the Career Have Occupational Licensure or Certification Requirements?

If you are enrolling in school to prepare for employment in an occupation that requires licensure or certification by a state or professional organization, you may not be able to get a job unless you attend an approved program. Learn More.

If you're not sure which career is right for you or how your current skills may transfer to another field, you can find a wealth of information about specific careers and industries online. Or explore some of the following resources:

  • The Minnesota WorkForce Centers System provides job training services, career information and counseling.
  • Many state two-year colleges offer assessment services for job and career planning. Some may offer career planning classes.
  • Community education programs offer career planning classes.
  • Several nonprofit organizations offer education and career planning services. Use the United Way 2-1-1 Information and Referral Service, a directory of community services, to identify local services.

Explore Higher Education Options in Minnesota.

What Do Graduates Earn?

Minnesota tracks graduates from its colleges into Minnesota's workforce. Data are available from the Minnesota Department of Economic and Employment Development. You can search online to find out what graduates earned by programs of study/majors and level of study. Learn More.

Admission Requirements for Adult Students

Admission requirements for adult students may differ slightly from requirements for students who attend right after high school:

  • You may not be required to take the ACT or SAT. Instead, you may have you take placement tests to help a college assess your current knowledge or skills.
  • A letter of recommendation from an employer, supervisor or coworker can be an effective substitute for a counselor's recommendation. If you attended college previously, try to request a recommendation from a professor or advisor who knew you well.
  • If you attended college previously, request that a transcript be sent to the school to which you are applying. If the college or university was located in Minnesota and has since closed, check this student contact list to determine where you can request a transcript.

Credit for Prior Learning

Find out if you are eligible to receive credit for prior learning.

Adult students often have a wealth of information that they've picked up through on-the-job training or general life experiences. When you're considering different schools or programs, be sure to see if you can get credit for:

  • Prior Postsecondary Course Credits

    Request a transcript of grades from the school(s) where you earned them, and find out if the new school will accept any of the credits in transfer. The college you hope to attend will send you a written transfer credit evaluation form, indicating the specific courses that will transfer. Information is also available from Minnesota Transfer, a statewide guide on transferring prior credits.

  • Prior Learning Experiences

    Many colleges award credit to adult students through the College Board's College-Level Examination Program (CLEP).

  • Prior Life Experiences

    Some colleges will award credit for your accomplishments. You may need to submit a portfolio showing your experience and demonstrating your mastery of the subject.

Financial Aid for Adult Students

State and federal financial aid is available to part-time as well as full-time students. Child care assistance may also be available. Contact the financial aid office at the school you are considering to find out if it has additional aid programs geared toward adult students, such as the Alliss Grant.

There is no age limit for federal and state financial aid, but many student financial aid programs are limited to undergraduates who have not already received a bachelor's degree.

  • Employer Programs

    If you were recently laid-off and need to update or learn new skills, you may be eligible for a dislocated worker grant.

    Some employers provide undergraduate or graduate scholarships to their employees and the employee's spouse or children. Check if your employer participates in employer-paid tuition assistance.

  • Education Tax Credits and Deductions

    Although you may end up paying for some of your education expenses out-of-pocket, education tax credits and deductions can decrease the amount of taxes you owe to the federal government.

Learn More.


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