Options for Adult Learners

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I could use some extra insight when it comes to career development. I just graduated with a degree in anthropology. My minor concentration was psychology. My original plan was to go to grad school, since I’m still fascinated by human behavior.


However, that may not happen now. My mom just revealed that my younger sister struggles with prescription pills. According to her, it’s been going on for over six months now. I couldn’t believe it.


I’m not considering putting all my plans on hold to help her with my sister. It seems like the right thing to do, but I also can’t afford to just put my career on pause. What could someone in my position do to balance both?


Your scenario sounds very tragic, but you should also know that you aren’t alone. Cities and townships all over America struggle with the same nationwide opioid epidemic. While it’s often heroine that captures the major news headlines, prescription painkillers can be just as addictive and destructive. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that, “on average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.” Worse still, things don’t seem to be getting any better. Among the host of controversial decisions made thus far by the Trump administration, one that wasn’t questionable was the declaration of a national emergency surrounding the opioid crisis.


Having the public eye trained on the volatile situation is pivotal to solving the problem at its source. Despite the stigmatizing tendencies of society at large, the issue isn’t just irresponsible people, but rather a combination of inclinations and institutions that make it far too easy for anyone to get their hands on deleterious substances. German Lopez at Voxreported earlier this year that pharmaceutical companies shipped a whopping 21 million prescription painkillers to a two small West Virginia towns over the course of a decade. Disclosures like those provoke action from the powers that be. Don’t expect sweeping change anytime soon, though. Resolving a national crisis of this magnitude is never a simple feat.


In the meantime, the families and friends of those struggling with addiction are often left to fend for themselves. When it comes to action, the best you can do is prevent inadvertent (or deliberate) enablement and empathize with them. Cultivating a real understanding of the addiction is also a major advantage. Staff writers at the American Addiction Centers have done you the favor of publishing a comprehensive resource that explains how you can help an addict and yourself. That’s an excellent place to begin your quest for knowledge.


Balancing your career development while trying to help your mom and sister is as ambitious as it is prudent. You should already know it won’t be easy to accomplish, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile endeavor. Your prospects might have looked different even a few years ago, but technology has made higher education much more accessible for adult learners. A simple Google search reveals more than a fair share of innovative academic programs. The key is understanding just how you plan graduate school to advance your career.

Given your rather unique scenario, an education that blends human behavioral study with human services might be an ideal fit. In other words, you could focus on something like improving multiple aspects of your life–your career, family, and natural curiosity. You might, for example, consider one of the many allied health degree programs offered. At the end of the day, only you can know what would be best. It’s difficult to go wrong so long as you consider your options. Editors at The Princeton Review put together a shortlist of five tips that can help you choose the right grad school. You’d be remiss not to take those pointers into account, especially the part about consulting with current students.


“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin