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Characteristics of Successful Adult Learners

The world of higher education is customized to the meet the needs and learning style of younger students, and in general, fails to acknowledge the characteristics of adult learners. Many schools and educational institutions are stymied when trying to provide a successful adult degree completion program. CCU recognizes the  characteristics of adult learners, and has crafted an educational program, which specifically address these characteristics.

  • Adult learners are self-directed. As individuals mature, they develop their ability to chart a life course and complete it. One of the characteristics of adult learners is that they depend less upon teachers, instructors, and peers for guidance in their coursework. This independence aids them in the classroom.
  • Adult learners test new knowledge against their existing stock of experience, learning, and expertise. A 34-year old has more life experience than an 18-year old. Thus, when learning a new concept, the adult will be better able to analyze new information and compare it to his existing knowledge. This characteristic of adult learners helps to cement new knowledge, rather than to erode it.
  • Adult learners are able to put new knowledge to work immediately. Many adult learners are employed while also enrolled as a student. The work/study situation is ideal for immediately applying their knowledge. A student is better able to take knowledge gained in a class, and apply it in his work the next day.
  • Adult learners are focused and results-oriented. If an adult is in school, it is because he or she has a specific goal in mind. Having a clearly defined goal works to the advantage of a student, providing him or her with the laser-like focus on the goal, thus achieving the desired results. Contrast this characteristic of adult learners with the younger student, whose entrance into college is simply the next step in the customary course of life.
  • Adult learners carry a greater sense of responsibility into their studies. In the case of young students, major life responsibility is not yet a part of their load. Adult students, on the other hand, take full responsibility for the success or failure of their learning. Additionally, since adult learners most likely have intrinsic financial commitment, this serves to increase the level of responsibility.

Adult learners are well equipped to take on the challenge of higher education. It takes a school that is attune to the characteristics of adult learners to best provide a successful adult degree completion program.


Colorado Christian University does not guarantee any job placement as a result of earning this or any other degrees offered by the university.

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