Unfinished business: Reasons to return to school
What’s motivating you to consider going back to school? Here are some common – and valid – reasons.
- Change in your situation: Family, health, or other life circumstances might have gotten in your way the first time you went to college. If things have changed, you might be ready to tackle your courses again.
- Career or job advancement: You might reach a point in your career where a higher degree opens doors. Or maybe your employer requires a degree in order to move up the ladder. These are both great reasons to go back to school. Check with your employer to see if they offer tuition assistance.
- Financial reasons: A higher degree may equal higher pay. Do the math – if your increased income would outweigh the cost of going back to school, you may have your answer.
- Goals and dreams: Is a college degree one of your life goals? If so, achieving it can give you confidence and fulfillment. Plus, you’ll gain valuable knowledge.
You've got this: How to successfully return to school
Deciding to go back to school is a big step. Make sure you do it successfully by following these tips.
- Be clear about why you’re going back. This might sound obvious, but it’s important to think about your goals. Are you aiming for a better job title? More pay? A career change? Map your degree and coursework to your goals to save time, energy, and money.
- Choose the right school. Look beyond the school you started out at. While that might be the right choice, you now have the benefit of experience. Think about your goals, consider your options, and look for schools that offer the courses, job training, degrees, and financing you need.
- Get organized. Dig up your transcripts, standardized testing, letters of recommendation, and other materials you might need. Consider whether you need to update your application materials. And make sure you’re up to speed on deadlines.
- Figure out your credits. Contact the colleges or programs you’re interested in to find out how your previously-earned credits will transfer, and how many new credits you’ll need to earn. Consider where your credits will go furthest – that program will save you time and money!
- Consider flexible options. If you’re planning to continue working, you may want to look into part-time or online programs.
- Find funding. Think about different ways to pay for your degree. Does your employer offer tuition assistance? Can you benefit from programs for veterans, public service workers, or teachers? Are any scholarships or grants available through your school or community? A little investigation could have a big payoff.
And no, it's not too late!
It’s never too late to go back and finish your degree, no matter where you are in life. Consider Nola Ochs, who got her bachelor’s degree at age 95 and went on to get her master’s degree at 98! With some thought and planning, you can choose the right education track, school, and timeframe to fit your needs. Need help? Start by contacting the admissions department at your local community college. They can answer your questions about where to begin and point you in the right direction.