Top 5 Excuses Adults Use Not to Go Back to College

You’ve always been interested in helping people, or computers, or nursing, or [insert your interest here] but you’re not sure if you can hack going to college at this point. You don’t have time. You’re afraid of math. Your cat wants you home at night. The excuses are endless.

“For most adult learners, college really is possible,” says Brenda Edwards, career counselor at Piedmont Technical College. “You have to make a choice whether you are going to live the life of your dreams or a life of fear and excuses.”

Here are some top excuses. We’ll work on debunking each one.

Excuse #1: “I didn’t do well when I was in high school. Therefore, I won’t do well in college.”

Who you were in high school has little relevance to who you are today. Your values, interests, and yes, your skills, have evolved.

You might be sorely out of practice at playing football today, though you might have been great at it 20 years ago. Likewise, you might be a great student today though you weren’t when you were younger. You’re more motivated. You have a lot of great experience to draw upon.  You’re more mature.

“We have students come in who are absolutely brilliant and have no idea of their potential,” Edwards said. “Returning to college ends up being such a confidence booster for them and also has a dramatic, positive impact on their whole family.”

Excuse #2: “I don’t  have the time.”

We’re all doing a million things. However, think of the time that is wasted in your life when you’re unhappy with your career path. We tend to compensate for our unhappiness with other huge time and money wasters. 

Also, most colleges, including PTC, cater to busy adults. At PTC, courses are offered at multiple campus locations day, evening and online. Many parents like taking online courses, which allow them to complete their courses without having to arrange childcare. Through online learning, students take their classes when their children go to bed, on their lunch breaks, or whenever it’s convenient for them.

You will probably find that when you begin learning material that resonates with you, you will have a lot more energy and time to get the work done than you thought.

Excuse #3:  “I can’t afford it.”

You may think that college is out of your reach because of cost. However, college may be more affordable than you think. “Financial aid and scholarships are available to those who qualify for both full-time and part-time students,” says Tanisha Latimer, PTC’s dean of Enrollment Management. Latimer encourages students to apply early, which gives them the best chance of a financial package that meets their needs. A majority of PTC students receive some sort of financial aid. Most colleges, including PTC, have payment plans allowing you to pay your bill monthly instead of in one lump sum.

Latimer encourages all students considering college to fill out the FAFSA form, the first step in the financial aid process, by going to

Latimer also points out that money can be available from sources you may not have thought of. “Many employers offer tuition assistance, so it’s worth asking about.”

And when it comes down to it, PTC costs significantly less than most other colleges.

Excuse #4:  “I can’t do math.”

So you haven’t done calculus since your junior year of high school. So what? You won’t be thrown into calculus your first semester (and maybe not at all if your degree or certificate doesn’t require it). When you enter as a new student, you will be placed in courses that match the level you are at and you will start there.

For those who see math as an insurmountable challenge, like walking the entire length of the Mohave Desert with no shoes, Edwards encourages some perspective. “I had a female adult learner who told me she just couldn’t do it. At the same time, I had seen this student conquer huge personal challenges in her life, not related to her academic career. I told her that making it through math was one more opportunity to grow her life skills,” Edwards said.

“Often times we get this tape replaying in our head about how we can’t do something,” Edwards said.  “If we just change the tape in our head, we can break through barriers.  I often tell students to change the tape in their head to, “I can do math” and before you know it they are doing math.”

Excuse #5: “I don’t know what I want to study.”

You know that you want to earn a degree in something, you just aren’t sure what that something is yet! Do you keep putting off college until the bolt of inspiration comes?

“Students can always begin with general courses to explore their interests,” Edwards explained.  “From there, they can make an appointment with the PTC Career Planning office to help them figure out their interests and what types of careers would suit them.”  The Career Services office can also assist before you become a student.

*Originally published in CareerFocus Magazine