NervousPursuing a college degree after a lengthy layoff from school can be a stress-inducing predicament for many adult learners. Some have to reach back to their 20s to find the last time they had a study session or wrote a research paper. Now that it's a little later in life, is pursuing an online degree really a good idea, and will it pay off in the end?

If you're persistent with your studies and attack your degree program term after term, from start to finish, then the answer is a resounding "Yes."

Many adult learners who take online classes want more out of their professional careers. They've been working their tails off for years and believe they deserve a promotion or a raise at their current place of employment. Or, they're eyeing a new career field that would better use their unique talents.

Many of them understand how a professionally relevant online degree could help them reach that next stage. Attending school online allows adult learners to keep their current job while planning for their future. It's a win-win situation.

Going back to school after several years of being off can cause the stress-meter to rise for some adult learners. If you're an adult learner who's getting back in the academic saddle again, test out these four ways to calm your nerves:

1. Plan ahead.

Let's take a step back and analyze why you may be nervous about starting classes. You may have a full-time job, a family and/or a military commitment. Life is busy as it is, and adding school to that plate may cause your head to spin in the beginning.

Fear not.

Before you begin classes, make a detailed list, prioritized in schedule format, of when you plan on accomplishing tasks at work, school and home. Make this list as detailed as necessary. Buy a calendar/day planner, or organize these tasks in your phone to effectively plan ahead and fit academics into your lifestyle. Organization and structure will combat those nerves.

2. Use social media to connect with the school and other online degree students.

If this sounds a little off, stick with me for a few sentences. I realize social media can be met with a certain level of resentment from various adult learners in the latter stages of their lives. After all, how many adult learners really care about Justin Bieber's latest Tweet? However, that's not what social media is about in the education world.

Social media is a powerful platform that enables online students to stay connected. Think of it as a cyber-student union. For adult learners attending an online college, a central online location that allows students to interact is extremely important. Furthermore, several schools announce exclusive student-success tips, events and university news on social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

If you're a little nervous about starting school again, maybe some of your fellow classmates feel the same way. Get a conversation going on social media with other students and see what kind of response it generates. You may be pleasantly surprised.

3. Don't forget about available resources for online degree students.

Pursuing an online degree should not be a solo act. Become familiar with your college's resources. At Grantham University, for example, admissions representatives provide helping hands to newer students with enrolling, transfer credits, course-related questions, benefits, scholarships and more.

Another great resource is your student advisor (SA). SAs alleviate some of the stress that busy online students endure by motivating and assisting with all things related to your online college experience.

Finally, don't forget about instructors, online librarians and Career Services. If your online college of choice provides these services, take advantage of what they have to offer. They should be considered part of your academic success team.

4. Establish a rhythm.

Once you have your schedule mapped out (from tip No. 1), it's just a matter of practicing the routine to the point that it becomes second-nature. It's kind of like preparing to deliver a presentation. Naturally, the first time you prepare will not feel as comfortable as the fifth time. After implementing your schedule for juggling your studies with work and family, the nerves will subside and you'll be rockin' and rollin' in good rhythm with your online degree program.

Are you considering whether an online degree is the right fit for you? For an in-depth look at the pros and cons of distance learning, and to decide if it fits into your career plans, download our eBook.