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For Returning/Non-Traditional Students

Students speaking outside with laptop

Many students at Penn have returned to school after a break in their formal education. Some programs such as PhD, MBA, executive MBA, Dental, and Medicine have many students that have professional work experience and have not been inside a classroom for years. Below are some tips that will help for a smooth transition to student life.

  • Manage your time: Time management is one of the most important aspects of being a successful student. Getting back into “school mode” may be challenging, but if you effectively manage your time, you will maximize your chances of succeeding in the classroom. A few tips for managing a student schedule:
    • Being a student most likely is not a “9-5” lifestyle. There will be late-night study sessions, group assignments that keep you on campus, and dreaded papers and finals. Student schedules tend to have gaps throughout the day- make these gaps productive! For my scheduled gaps, I like to read for class, catch up with friends or colleagues, or outline a paper that’s due soon.
    • Make sure you schedule time for your personal life. Students who are a few years removed from formal education are more likely to have large life commitments, such as partners, children, pets, and jobs. The best way to make sure you are balancing your life well is to schedule time for all your commitments.
    • Understand that early on it will take longer to read those articles and write those papers. Budget longer for school assignments until you fully transition into the student lifestyle.
    • Use any form of scheduling that makes sense for you! You can purchase a planner at the Penn Bookstore, use Google Calendar or Apple’s Calendar app, or come into Weingarten for a free semester one-page calendar. You want to make this process as smooth as possible, so make your calendar work for you. Check out older posts on this blog on advice for types of planners. 
  • Seek help and advice: There are many people on the Penn campus who have returned to school after taking a significant break in their studies. Seek help and advice from your classmates, professors, staff, and advisors.
    • It is highly recommended that you build a network of friends and classmates while at Penn. These relationships will not only make school more enjoyable, but both parties can benefit from the additional resource.
    • Check out the vast services Penn offers; from academic support to health and welfare.
    • You can also schedule an appointment or drop in during office hours with a Learning Fellow at the Weingarten Center. We are here to help you with study tips, reading strategies, time management, technology support, essay reviews, and much more!
  • Bring your experiences into the classroom: Use your experience to your advantage and fill the classroom with anecdotes that are related to the subject matter. This can help you understand the content more and it will help your classmates see the real-world implications.

Use these tips to start off on the right foot. If you have advice of your own, feel free to leave a comment!

Staff Writer: Victoria Gill

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