6 Tips for Adult Learners Resuming Formal Education

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I am a 60-year-old attorney who practices law with his two sons and an old friend, and who during the course of his practice, built a health organization with 9 of his closest friends, which deals with acquiring physician practices and uniting them into a community health program complete with its own insurance underwriting. So why am I here?

When my organization needed to grow, we added a score of young people who brought a different knowledge base and a different set of experiences to our core business environment. As such, I was having difficulty explaining my business model to them so that they could do their quantitative jobs appropriately. I soon learned that the problem wasn’t them; rather, it was me. I always considered myself to be a very good communicator, being that I am a lawyer, but that no longer held true because of the subject matter that I was dealing with and to whom I was speaking. My audience changed. I was no longer speaking exclusively to judges, clients, and to other lawyers.

So I took it upon myself to apply to the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School to help with my conversion into an effective communicator (quantitatively speaking). My great expectation was to acquire this knowledge and to remain “relevant.” And the trick was to fit all of that into what was already an 80-hour work week, something I only learned during module 1 week 1 of a course named Business Statistics.

Everything was different. Back when I went to law school using a blackboard meant writing on a piece of slate with chalk. Fast forward 37 years, and Blackboard means something that virtually is the same but works entirely differently. Add to that “proctor now,” which turns my computer into a “Peeping Tom;” then factor in the content of the curriculum, which centered on quantitative analysis; and now I am using an entirely different region of the brain, something that has lain dormant for a very long period of time, coupled with assimilating the latest technology demands right out of Star Trek. That, my friends, is undertaking a huge learning curve.

Now I get to my point which I entitled time allocation and productivity. Sounds like a chapter from Economics in Business Decisions. But, truly, it is. I have spoken with many students in their 40’s and 50’s and many who have applied and who await admission. All of them have great expectations of one sort or another. But like me, all of them without exception never truly realized the time consumption that course work in an MBA program demands, especially after being away from academics for such an extended period of time. You can compare it to a Revolutionary War soldier waking up in West Point in the year 2017.

This is the advice I have taken upon myself that I wish to offer others now:

  1. Set aside realistic amounts of time to get your academics done. With the learning curve for the new technology that is utilized along with just being away from school for a protracted period of time, allow yourself twice as much time as is recommended. Most course syllabi suggest 10 hours per week, so set aside 20 to 25 hours.
  2. Take one course in the beginning, especially if it involves a subject matter that is not an area of strength.
  3. Seek aid from the Teacher’s Assistants and other independent help the program offers.
  4. Be extra conscientious in your real job to get things done immediately to allocate more time to the program.
  5. Most importantly, tell your spouse or significant other what you are doing because he or she will not get the change in life pace at first (or maybe ever).
  6. Lastly, take a deep breath, and dive in. Don’t get discouraged and just keep moving forward. The younger students get it, but you have the work experience going for you. Remember, while grades are important, you are here primarily to learn and to understand the subject matter in a mature way to meet your great expectations.
Michael Presley
Michael Presley

Michael Presley brings more than 36 years of legal experience in the health care field, developing the legal design and corporate structure for the primary care practice networks of United MSO. As a licensed attorney and licensed health care risk manager in Florida, Presley developed this network structure in a way that can permissibly cross state lines without being restricted by the corporate practice of medicine rules. As both the Chief Risk Officer and Chief Administration Officer for United MSO, Presley oversees all ACO committee functions. Presley’s risk and administrative functions extend over the intake of primary care practices; negotiating operating agreements binding the ACOs with United MSO as a limited partnership; and reviewing the results of the acquisition analytics with a view towards risk scoring, stratification, and assimilation of each practice and corresponding ACO into United MSO’s network. As a member of law review and a graduate with honors from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law, Presley has served the health care community since 1980. Presley is currently working on his MBA degree at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

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