Anne Arundel Community College officials say that for some prospective students, particularly adults who have spent years away from a formal classroom setting, the stresses of school begin well before enrollment.

The school will hold an open house next month called "College 101" to help ease anxieties for adults looking to begin long-delayed goals to attend college or those who are returning to the classroom. The program will be offered at the school's Arundel Mills campus in Hanover on Aug. 3 and at its main campus in Arnold on Aug. 6.

"The program was initiated because many adults have been away from school for many years," said Frances Turcott, director of AACC's Off-Site and Weekend College. "They have pressing concerns about their employment status and want to know what the college can do to help them. Many haven't identified a program but want to explore their options."

Turcott said the program will cover such areas as financial aid for part-time students, transferring credits, placement tests and credits for what one has learned on the job.

Turcott said the school is providing the open house before the start of fall classes Aug. 22, hoping to target adult students who might need more incentive or encouragement to get started than someone straight out of high school. While the open house was originally meant for prospective students, current students have signed up as well.

Turcott said, "There are a lot of questions that adult students have that your traditional 18-year-old coming right out of high school isn't concerned with. Right now we are dealing with a fairly bad economy, and we're seeing adults coming back to school in much higher numbers.

"They are concerned about their jobs. They're looking for new employment opportunities, and they recognize that they need to get additional education to be qualified for them," Turcott said.

The program will also offer sessions on making the transition from the military to civilian jobs, and cover federal hiring practices and how to write resumes for federal jobs.

"Prospective students might understand that they need to make a significant change but don't know what resources are available to help them," Turcott added. "I've tried to put a program together to help adults overcome their fear of returning to school with the keynote speaker and following up with sessions that answer a lot of the questions that we field all the time."

Nancy Garrett, 58, of Glen Burnie is among the current students who want to seize the opportunity to meet like-minded peers. She says she wanted to go to college out of high school, but as a single parent had to work two jobs.

She said that although there are some older students in the classroom, most are younger people who haven't had the experience of being away from school for periods of time.

"I want to find out how [the older students] are doing, if they're succeeding or is it harder for them to pass the classes, and what, all around, are they feeling about the school," Garrett said. "It's a good idea, so we can come and meet together and have people to call on and help each other with problems that come up, maybe find a couple of friends."

Barbara Bullock, 49, of Baltimore said that she signed up for the program to get more information about areas such as adult tutoring and financial aid, and even though she's been attending the school for two years figured it would be helpful to gain information alongside those who are considering enrollment.

"I want to see if there's anything I might have missed," Bullock said, "to see if they've changed anything or added anything, because every year things change."

With the bleak economy, more AACC students entering directly out of high school are already in the workforce, Turcott said. Yet she said the open house addresses questions from the older population that primarily have different concerns than their younger counterparts.

"The adults have other responsibilities, including raising children and holding on to their jobs to make mortgage payments," Turcott said. "The anxiety level is a little bit higher."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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