The decision to go to university or graduate school can mean a serious lifestyle change, and it’s often a stressful decision. When you’re an adult going back to school later in life, the uncertainty and stress surrounding that decision are only increased. Plenty of adults go back to school to further their education, but how do you know that it’s the right decision for you?
There are plenty of opportunities to continue learning after you graduate college. On-the-job experience and professional development can teach you valuable skills. But sometimes, you may hit roadblocks. You may need additional education to apply for that dream job, or may be thinking about changing careers. Maybe you want to go into another industry altogether.
Regardless of your reasons for thinking about going back to school, it’s a big decision to make and is one that you should weigh carefully. If you’re considering going to grad school or even heading to university later on in life, thinking about the following education factors can help you to make your choice.
Going back to school is a significant financial investment, so you should be certain that the investment will pay off in time. If you’re thinking of pursuing an MBA or other degree, then make sure that the degree will help you to get a position within the career that you want. You may want to consider the potential higher salaries that you could earn with the degree. PayScale often provides salary averages that you can expect to earn with a particular degree.
Next, it’s time to determine how much your education will cost. Consider not only the cost of tuition, but also what you’ll need to pay for textbooks, travel to campus, and any other potential expenses. Look into payment options that the school offers, as some schools will let you pay in installments while you’re enrolled in an academic program.
Financial aid can help you to finance your education. Apply for federal student loans and grants by completing the FAFSA form. In addition to the FAFSA, ask about any scholarships offered by the school, itself. Many universities offer scholarships for students within a particular major, and some schools offer scholarships for graduate students. If you will be attending an on-campus program, an assistantship can give you valuable teaching experience while also reducing the costs of your education.
If you are currently employed and are going back to school to gain skills that you will use in your current job, ask if your employer is willing to contribute toward the cost of your education. Many larger employers do offer education assistance programs, paying for part or all of your education in exchange for your agreement to continue working for that employer for a contracted length of time.
If you need or want to continue working full-time while going to school, then online courses and degrees may give you the flexibility that you need. More schools are offering courses and even entire degrees online. Depending on your field of study and the school that you attend, you may be able to complete your entire degree without ever having to travel to campus.
You may find that an online degree is ideal for your lifestyle. These degrees usually offer more scheduling flexibility than traditional on-campus courses. Many online courses are asynchronous, which means students can log in anytime to complete coursework. In some cases, online courses will have pre-scheduled synchronous meetings where students log in at a scheduled time so that they can interact with their peers and with their professor in real time. Online courses also frequently use discussion boards and videos to make for a more engaging online learning experience.
Online learning isn’t without its challenges, though. You need to be motivated and self-disciplined, especially when a course allows you the flexibility to log in at your convenience and progress at your own pace. Taking an online course or degree requires that you learn how to effectively communicate with faculty even from a distance, and you’ll need to be able to use various technologies, such as webcams and online learning platforms.
The thought of going back to school as an adult may give you pause. Many adults worry that they’ll feel out of place and won’t be able to connect with other students. The truth is, that’s not the case at all. Age isn’t a factor to most students and you may also find that you’re not the only adult pursuing an education.
Your age can actually give you an advantage when you go back to school for your graduate degree. Having had some time to mature and develop your professional skills, you’ll be equipped with experience and characteristics that younger college students often lack. Professional experience can hone your organization, critical thinking, and collaborative skills, and chances are you know how to prioritize work and meet regular deadlines. Plus, you’ll be motivated, either by your own determination or by a drive to further your education to better provide for your family.
Going back to school can be a rewarding experience, but you need to make sure that the decision is right for you, your current situation, and your family.
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