Higher education leaders love to segment their student population by different categories.
A popular one is to categorize adult learners by their motivation for returning to school. Marketers characterize students as returning to school to do things such as switch careers, change jobs, advance in their career, earn more money, or reskill or upskill.
Although these are perfectly fine categories—and reasons to return to school—they are one-dimensional.
They miss the circumstances—or context—surrounding individuals’ decisions. What made them say “Today is the day I’m going back to school” as opposed to months earlier when they also may have needed a boost in skills or desired a career switch?
Reasons like these also reduce a student’s motivation to one factor, when in reality, individuals and their lives are complicated. People take action for multiple reasons.
All too often these categories also reduce people’s motivations to a functional desire alone and neglect the social and emotional reasons that drive someone to take action.