Life has a way of taking us down varied paths. What is right for one person, isn’t always right for another. Same goes for school and school timing. In our current society, it is common for students graduating high school to go straight into college following graduation. But what if that wasn’t your path? What if you (for one reason or another) picked up some more life experience rather than a formal education or degree, but now find yourself needing or wanting to go back to school? It should be comforting to know, it is never too late! College student ages range from pre-high school students to the elderly and everything in between. While it is absolutely possible (and commendable) to go back to school and hit the books, there are things to know that will increase your chances at success as an adult learner.
On of the benefits to going back to school after having more life experience is that you will likely know more about your strengths and goals than you did when you were a kid. By knowing yourself better, you can more easily decide on an area of study. By having more definitive goals, you minimize your chances of major hopping and racking up additional debt and time commitments. You will also know that you need to balance your degree cost with the bills you need to pay and the lifestyle you want, helping you to be wiser in your degree choice and it’s career options.
Another great benefit to our current educational and technological environment is that there are varied programs for different life situations. There are time and coursework accelerated programs, adult only accelerated programs, after hours curriculum and programs, part time, full time, hybrid (a mixture of in person and online) and a multitude of online-only programs. There is literally a program for everyone. You can earn a degree in your pajamas from reputable institutions in minimal amounts of time. You’ll want to consider how you learn best and which style will fit your life. After deciding how you want to learn, you can start looking for a college that carries your degree program in the way you want it.
Regardless of how you learn, there is still a sizeable time commitment to consider when deciding to go back to school. You will want to clear enough of your schedule to really embrace your education and take as much as you can from it. You are paying for it and taking the time to attend, so there is no reason to short change yourself by not having enough time or energy to be successful. At this stage in your life, it is likely you have a full-time job and maybe even a family to juggle as well as other responsibilities. Remember that to make time, some things may need to take a temporary backseat. This is where you would weigh the outcome of furthering your education with whether it is right for you.
Going back to school when you already have bills and real responsibilities can be a sizeable financial burden. There are tons of scholarships with the returning student in mind that you should consider applying to. Take some time to research and apply for whatever you qualify for. Also, be sure to apply for any federal student aid that you can get as well. Any amount of help will make going back to school more feasible for you.
Some companies offer their employees tuition reimbursement for units taken or degrees earned. Make sure to check with your company to see if that is something that is offered and could be made available to you. Make sure to follow their processes and adhere to their submission guidelines for the best chances at reimbursement.
Going back to school will take hard work, time and diligence. With the right attitude and a little preparation, you can set yourself up for long term success. Just keep moving forward!