Overcoming the Fear of the Unknown

Going back to school can be scary, especially if one has been out for a long time.  Thinking of how one is going to manage juggling family, work and school is enough responsibility to overwhelm anyone.  Not to mention the fear of subject matters such as Math and English. These subjects may not have been our favorite in high school.  So how do we overcome the fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, or the fear of math?

I am going to suggest a few things that may help you.  Consider these when you’re  contemplating the decision to take the plunge to complete your degree, make that career change or whatever dream you may be avoiding due to fear:

  • Having strong self-esteem is essential to being able to accomplish what you want to achieve.  If one lacks self-assurance, it will be nearly impossible to accomplish one’s goals.  Your belief in yourself, in addition to your faith in Christ of course, is going to be what gets you through  adversity.  This is also known as determination and will.  When the going gets tough, will you fight or will you fold?  “A man is as he thinks” Proverbs 23:7– so make sure you are constantly positively affirming yourself.  Tell yourself that you are smart enough, you are strong enough, and that you will accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish.
  •  Having a strong support system is also vital to your success.  Rid yourself of the negative naysayers and the people that may hold you back from accomplishing your dreams and goals.  Surround yourself with cheerleaders and like-minded people. If you do not know any people like that, there are plenty of groups you can join to meet some.  Usually church is a good place to start.  
  • Lastly, make it a goal every day to do something that you will thank yourself for in the future.  Notating and completing short term and long term goals help us to gain momentum by giving us a sense of accomplishment.  Have a plan because when we do not, we can usually plan to fail.


Those of us in adult higher education know, for the most part, why adults decide to return to college. We hear the reasons several times a day, and we repeat them as we engage prospective students in dialogue about returning to college. Adults are typically looking to get a better job, set themselves up for a promotion, make more money, be an example to their kids, and finish what they started. There’s nothing wrong with this list. These are all noble reasons for continuing one’s education. However, as someone who attempts to incorporate a biblical worldview into his thinking, I would like to make an addition to the list. Adults should pursue a college education because God requires that we be stewards of what he has given us. Let me explain.

In Genesis 1:28, God tells his human creation that they are to have dominion over all that he has created. This was to include the physical environment and, as it developed over time, the social-cultural environment. God expects us to be stewards or caretakers over all of his creation and, as a result of the fall, to partner with him in its restoration. We cannot be effective stewards of God’s creation unless we are constantly learning about it. This requires us to become lifelong learners. Our adult students at Belhaven learn about God’s physical creation in their biology classes. They not only learn to marvel at God’s awesome majesty as it’s revealed in creation; they learn ways to become more responsible stewards of what he has made. Our students learn about the socio-cultural environment in sociology and psychology classes, and that responsibilities in these areas involve, among other things, being our brother’s keeper. Adult students learn to be stewards of the business environment in their business and leadership classes as they learn the importance of engaging in “business by The Book.”

In a way, our typical list of reasons for adults returning to school are at best pragmatic, and if we’re not careful in how we present them, perhaps a bit self-centered. We need to balance them with biblical-centered reasons for life-long learning that are focused on stewardship. 

So, I have a proposal for those of us whose work is to make adult education attractive to prospective students. We should acknowledge that pragmatic reasons for returning to college are important. Better jobs, promotions, and increases in income are all important potential outcomes to prospective students who have current and future needs that can be met by earning their degrees. However, a biblical worldview requires us to go deeper and acknowledge that education is a tool that allows us to learn more about the creation that God requires us to steward. An undergraduate or graduate degree earned as a developing caretaker of God’s creation provides a pathway to effective participation in his kingdom work.

Emotional Intelligence and the Adult Student

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

As a student as well as instructor, I am amazed that too often I find myself “covering material” rather than engaging! I will do what it takes to make sure that I can boast that I read the assignments, viewed the videos, wrote the papers, and prepared for class. However, how often am I really ENGAGING the classroom, the instructor, the student, the material?

My temperament is such that I engage emotionally. I am an extrovert and natural “people person.” As such, I am most comfortable when I can “feel” connected. I find that MANY other adult students are able to learn and grow when they connect in the classroom (either in person or virtual), and that those who fail are often the most disconnected.

So why do so many of us instructors focus on “covering material” rather than connecting with students and connecting students to the subject matter? Thoughts?