How to Go Back to School as an Adult

When you’ve tapped out your current career path and need a change, school seems like a logical solution. Whether you never finished your studies or want to study something new, furthering your education can open up all kinds of new opportunities for you.

Many people successfully go back to school in their 30’s, 40’s, and beyond. For an effective and productive educational adventure, follow these tips.

Assess Your Career Path

Before you start applying to different schools, take a close look at what you want for your career. Don’t thoughtlessly enter a program with the hope that it will lead you somewhere good. Instead, assess your interests and talk to people in the industry. Look at employment statistics for graduates and what kind of incomes they have.

If you plan for the future before you even start school, you’ll have a much easier time finding a job once you finish.

Choose the Right School

You have endless options available to complete your education. You don’t have to attend a university to enhance your job prospects. Many vocational and post-secondary schools offer career-oriented programs you can complete quickly for less than you’d pay at a university.

Some vocational schools offer certificates of completion, and some allow you to earn undergraduate degrees. Find a school that reflects your interests and has good employment rates for graduates.

Straighten Out Finances

As an adult returning to school, you can find numerous financial aid options. Some organizations offer scholarships and grants tailored to adults going back to school. You can also apply for student loans with low interest-rates and flexible payment options.

Before you take out a loan, you can also ask about financial aid through your current employer. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement options if your degree will help you move up through the ranks.

Adjust Your Expectations

Once you’ve found a school and registered for classes, you can start preparing yourself for an academic environment. Although most people in your classes will be younger than you, you’ll probably find one or two other adults over 30.

In recent years, adults returning to school have become more and more common. You don’t have to go in feeling nervous and out of place. You won’t be the only person going back to change your career or improve your opportunities. Make connections with those around you and let the younger students learn from your life experience.

Establish a Support System

To get through your program, you’ll need lots of outside support. You’ll need your family to give you quiet time to study, and to help you with things like housework. You’ll need counselors at your school to guide you through the program and monitor your progress.

Enlist the help of the people closest to you, as well as the school’s resources. Visit your school’s student center or counseling office and ask for information on programs for students like you.

You can also look for websites and organizations centered on non-traditional students. Here you can talk to other people going through the same things you are. People join these groups to support one another.

Create a Schedule

There is no question that school will place a large demand on your time. You likely already have a job and a house to maintain, as well as children and a relationship. Most instructors will tell you to plan on spending two hours studying for every one hour you spend in class.

To get all these hours in, you’ll need to carefully schedule your days. Draw on your support system for help with housework and child care, and map out exactly when you’ll do homework and study.

As well, you can’t forget about sleep. You’ll need a solid sleep schedule in order to accomplish your day-to-day tasks. Prioritize sleep and don’t sacrifice your eight hours of slumber unless you absolutely have to.

Choose Between Campus and Online

If you want to cut down on commute times and save money on transportation, consider online classes. Many schools offer all the classes you need through an online system. You can do schoolwork and view lectures right from your home computer.

However, before you sign up for online classes, consider what kind of learning environment you want. With online classes, you don’t have the same hands-on experience. Your instructor will talk to you through email, not in person, and your classmates won’t sit right next to you.

If a classroom experience allows you to learn more effectively, take that into consideration before you register.

Get to Know Your Instructors

Your instructors can prove a valuable resource both during your schooling and after you have finished. Many teachers have experience in the workforce, and can help you establish yourself after you graduate and provide things like letters of recommendation.

Going back to school as a non-traditional student can vastly improve your job prospects. Use these tips to assess your options and choose the best program for your needs.

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