7 Common Challenges Facing College Students

Why do some adults pursue further education? Several factors encourage adults to resume education by returning to college. The coronavirus pandemic alone caused people to transform into “adult learners” – a terminology used to describe 25 and above-year-old students.

These students were motivated by the unique circumstances to give education another chance. Career development also compels employees to build their academic qualifications and climb up the promotional ladder.

Workers are required to gain these CEUs or continuing education units if they wish to maintain their employment. Similarly, we have some entrepreneurs who dream about becoming self-sufficient but lack the pedagogical capabilities for it.

Seven Problems Encountered by Adult Learners

Now, you can understand why there are around 7.5 million adult learners in the United States alone. We have companies that offer educational opportunities to employees to leverage their intellectual potential for enhancing the organization’s profitability. These adult learners – typically – fall into the

category of what you call the “nontraditional students.” These students are either married, have children, work full-time while enrolled, or have other responsibilities. It isn’t easy to pursue education with these challenges.

Online courses have enabled many adult learners to continue learning without being held back by their jobs, family, or other non-academic responsibilities. But they must bolster their time management skills while choosing stress-free schooling.

So, experts recommend adults returning to college to ensure a healthy work-life balance while pursuing their academic endeavors. Furthermore, it’s essential to learn about a few of the challenges mature students often face. Let’s have a look:

Busy Schedule

The most complex challenge for adult learners – undoubtedly – is their busy schedule. Unlike a traditional student, a nontraditional one often works full-time.

Mature students have families they must support too. So, they struggle with fitting schoolwork into their schedules. Thus, adult students must find an educational program with a flexible format. In other words, find a course that is neither on-campus nor full-time.

Taking night classes is also an option here. If your schedule is unpredictable and too complicated, distance learning is your buddy. So, have an honest dialogue with your family and employer to discuss your academic future. Don’t let this challenge derail your brilliant career.

Unhealthy Work-Life Balance

Employees often struggle with balancing their jobs with private affairs. As per EHS Today, more than 50% of the employees in America lack a healthy work-life balance since they work for grueling hours. You can understand how difficult it’s for mature learners to pursue education with a tedious career.

Any post-secondary student can verify that college isn’t less demanding than one’s job. Attending all classes, preparing for your tests, and doing weekly assignments can be strenuous for adult learners.

The solution lies in attending online classes. It allows full-time workers to create a healthy work-life balance while seeking academic progress. So, distance learning seems like the future of education.

Fearing exclusivity

Adult learners are often afraid they can’t interact effectively with younger students. Some colleges do offer adults-only classes where you don’t have to worry about adjusting with junior students. An online classroom eradicates this fear to some extent as well.

But many mature students still attend physical classes where they engage with younger classmates face-to-face. It requires some time to adjust to this “age-minority” setting and become comfortable with junior learners. It’s natural for adult learners to doubt their ability to interact with younger pupils.

Financial barriers

Many adult learners find academic expenditures a bit challenging to their already-meager financial conditions. With unfed mouths and unpaid bills, the extra charges of education overburden mature students.

In 2018, BBC reported that – after the British colleges increased tuition costs in 2012 – the number of adult learners fell by 20%. For expensive disciplines (e.g., nursing), the drop was almost 50 percent.

No wonder many mature students consider further education a superfluous extravagance in the United States too. Besides tuition costs, books and supplies also disable students from seeking better academic qualifications. Unfortunately, they’re seldom ever eligible for student loans as well.

Lack of motivation

What motivates an adult learner? Mature students encounter a shortage of motivation since they’re chiefly compelled by a necessity instead of the willingness to pursue further education.

Experts have suggested that adult learners can feel more motivated to pursue higher education if relevant to their work. Also, if the studies align with their career goals, mature students may be interested in digital courses.

Studies must be revisited to not seem like a few clicks on one’s laptop. Instead, they should invite mature learners to explore the depths of knowledge beneficial to their careers. Therefore, finding a course that’s immediately relevant to one’s employment motivates today’s adult learners.

Anxiety and pressure

As we’re all well aware, students are under constant pressure from their parents and teachers to exhibit excellent performance. But adult learners are also overstrained by several responsibilities that make it difficult to concentrate solely on their studies.

These nontraditional students are sources of income for their families and other dependents. So, returning to college often seems like a precarious investment for someone who can’t endure losing it all.

But adult learners must remember that they return to academic settings with more experience than younger classmates. Hence, it makes you capable of enduring this anxiety and leverage this pressure to achieve your educational objectives.

Reluctance to comply

Adult learners are often reluctant to adjust to new academic settings. They tend to be more established – financially or even conjugally – so mature students seldom accept change without resistance.

Also, maturity makes them defiant against new ideas and challenge views that oppose their preconceived notions. Aging can sometimes become an enemy of learning.

But don’t abandon education because a person’s learning disability is affected by age. Knowledge will bolster your critical thinking, problem-solving, and networking skills, among others.


Statistics show that 6.6 million adult learners were enrolled in colleges three years ago. Another million now come in this bracket after the emergence of COVID-19.

But the academic progress of these students is hindered by several factors. These common challenges include social fears, the failure to balance education with employment, the inability to understand technology, and many more.

However, professionals enjoy several benefits of online educational portals in the 21st century. Distance learning is a flexible educational opportunity that allows adult learners to resume learning from home. It lets you improve your technical abilities while bolstering your networking capabilities for career advancement.

Julie Higgins
Julie is a Staff Writer at momooze.com. She has been working in publishing houses before joining the editorial team at momooze. Julie's love and passion are topics around beauty, lifestyle, hair and nails.