6 Traits of Successful Adult Learners

by Christine Chadwick

Adults are returning to school in growing numbers in order to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive job market. Your success or failure as an adult learner depends on traits you may already possess. Those who succeed often display the following characteristics.

1. Goal-oriented

Be aware of what you want and how you want to complete a goal. Whether the goal is a certificate or degree, that goal should receive your entire focus until it is achieved. Having a written list of short- and long-terms goals, with an accompanying road map to their achievement, has been cited as a consistent indicator of success.

Research the continuing education program you are considering and evaluate the school. Make certain that the institution is accredited. Determine that the programme meets the standards of your employer and profession at large. Be aware of the financial resources available and establish how your education will be paid for. Adult learners who know how their continuing education is covered are saved a considerable source of worry and distraction.

2. Focused

If you are easily frustrated or sidetracked you decrease your odds of success. Adult learners who graduate on schedule share the ability to block out distractions and interruptions and stay on task during scheduled study periods. For example, they may have the discipline to turn down social invitations that conflict with the time that they have dedicated to course work.

3. Proactive

If you procrastinate, writing papers the night before they're due or trying to cram for all tests, you are much more likely to fail. Scheduling when and how to finish your work allows you to complete it at your own pace with plenty of time for revisions.

4. Self-motivating

Students who can hold themselves accountable can flourish. If you set your own goals, stay on schedule, and maintain routine work habits, your continuing education will likely go well. Self-motivated students are not dependent on positive feedback and set high standards for themselves.

5. Well-read

Successful adult learners have above average literacy. The multiple commitments of work and family mean that they have less time to linger over textbooks. These students have high comprehension levels, pick up details quickly, and require minimal guidance from teachers/lecturers.

6. Can do attitude

Adult learners with positive outlooks consistently outperform those with negative responses to situations. Traits of positive people include the ability to look for solutions, failure to blame others, and the ability to interact with peers constructively despite frustration.

These common characteristics of adult learners lead them to complete their programs through determination and will. They take responsibility for the outcome and do not seek rationalisations when they do not meet their own expectations, which are high. The ability to make short-term sacrifices for long-term goals truly indicates their likelihood of success.