Returning to college can open new doors both personally and professionally, regardless of your age or current career status. The beginning of any new undertaking also can be the most challenging and overwhelming part, too. Once you've decided to go back to college, the first steps you take in the process are critical and often determine your outlook for the educational journey ahead.
Here's how to make your transition back to college as smooth as possible.
STEP 1: Determine Your Course of Study
What do you want to learn by going back? Determining your major focus and level of education is one of the most important first steps before returning to college, especially if you are mid-career or have a family. Not only do you want to make the most of the commitments to both time and money, this decision directly influences several other choices you must make.
First, figure out what kind of degree you need. Do you need to get your associate's degree before moving onto your bachelor's, or are you ready to take the next step in your career and get the specialized education that a Master's degree provides?
If you're ready to completely change careers, but you aren't sure what else you would enjoy, consider taking a career test or assessment. You need to choose a field of study so you can research and apply to the schools and programs that will give you the greatest return based on your specific goals.
STEP 2: Choose an Online or Traditional School
Thoroughly research all of your options before choosing and committing to a specific program. Weigh the pros and cons of pursuing an education online versus an on-campus experience, whether at a community college, public university, or private college. Then, examine the specific program you're interested in and what resources it offers students.
For many adults, online education offers the flexibility to balance school with work, family, or other responsibilities. The online degree programs from the University of Arizona Global Campus, for example, have been designed with the modern professional in mind, from a shorter course schedule of five or six weeks to the ability to take just one course at a time. The University of Arizona Global Campus also recognizes prior college credits to ensure you don't waste time with redundant coursework.
STEP 3: Consider Financial Aid and Scholarships
You want to return to school to see a specific reward, whether it's to switch careers, get better job satisfaction, or obtain the skills you need for that big promotion. Whatever your goal, it’s possible there is a grant or scholarship available to you.
Here is a quick list of ways to secure funds for school: Take a look at the financial resources at the college of your choice, like those available from the University of Arizona Global Campus. Spend some time researching financial aid opportunities like FAFSA Search for specific scholarships for your background and goals. If you’re employed, ask your employer if they offer financial incentives for attending college.
Returning to college is not a decision to take lightly. Furthering your education can change the course of your entire life. Be clear and confident about the career path you want to follow, and extensively research the programs and options you have to achieve that goal. A little preparation will go a long way to ensuring your college experience is the best it can be.
Written by University staff