For many people, college was long thought of as a privilege offered only to those who could afford the time and the tuition. In these cases, learning would take a back seat to work or family, and the concept of earning a degree would feel forever out of reach.

That’s changed, fortunately, as online learning has created new opportunities for students anywhere in the world. The University of Arizona Global Campus polled its students on Facebook, asking them to explain their reasons for going back to school. From more than 150 responses, familiar trends began to appear, and the reasons became as diverse as the Global Campus student body.

1) Getting Ahead

Learning new skills and putting oneself in position for career advancement ranked among the most common reasons given for returning to school.

As student Carol Harrington put it, school is necessary to keep up with technology or “we will be lost in the shuffle of being uneducated and jobless.”

Another student, Samantha Leonard, replied, “I am going to school because I am not satisfied with settling for the average – struggle daily and do what is expected – life that I was stuck in for many years.”

2) Personal Achievement

Many respondents said school was a gift they wanted to give themselves, citing the desire to become a better, more educated person as their reason for enrolling in college.

“I think for me it was mostly about challenging myself and just furthering my education,” said Tari Jacobson, a teacher and Global Campus student. “Sure, it’s nice to make more money, but for me it was never about money.”

The path from high school to college isn’t always a straight line, and many times students who are on that route are detoured by work or family commitments. Making the decision to return to school as an adult can be a life-changing experience for yourself and others around you.

“I have been procrastinating for many years,” said Narda Elizabeth Patino. “I think that now is the time for me.”

“I am going to school to finish what I started,” replied Lisa Foster. “Leaving things undone is the worst kind of regret.”

Many adult learners who said they’d been putting off school for too long added that their children would benefit from their success in more ways than one.

3) For Your Children

If you’re weighing the pros and cons of going back to school as an adult, consider the positive impact that earning a college degree can have on your kids. We all want our kids to have a better quality of life than we had growing up, and for many, getting a college degree is the first step toward making that happen. This means something different to everyone but can include things like being able to raise your family in a neighborhood with good schools, having access to health care, and being able to afford family vacations. Going back to school can also motivate your children to also place value in their education and attend college.

“I need to set an example to my 23-year-old son, so he too can pursue an education,” said student Narda Patino.

“I want to set an example for my 16-year-old son,” student Rogina Gray-Bryant replied. “I hope to inspire him to do great things and do them no matter what obstacles he faces.”

Another student, Amanda Rousseau, wrote, “I decided to return to school to have a chance at creating a better life for my family and to prove to my son that anything is possible with hard work and the right attitude.”

4) To Be First In Your Family

Being the first in your family to earn a degree means you’ll set the standard for future generations, and it doesn’t matter what age you finish school.

Christina Bean, a student who is also a grandmother, said being the first in her family to earn her degree would change her life and theirs as well. And she wasn’t afraid to go for it even after she “failed” at high school.

“I’m going to school to show my grandson that working hard is worth it,” she said.

5) To Fulfill A Promise

Generations of parents who never had access to school have instilled upon their children the importance of going to college and earning a degree.

Student Melissa Midkiff shared her story of a loved one who passed away in hospice, and the promise she made to go to school and work toward improving the conditions for patients and families dealing facing similar struggles.

She now wants to become a patient advocate, saying, “I would love to help other families receive better care in the future.”

6) Because You’re Never Too Old

While an adult learner may feel out of place in a traditional college, online learning breaks down those barriers, creating opportunities for students of all ages. Many respondents admitted they felt “too old” to return to school at first, but their attitude quickly changed when they realized how much an education meant to their lives.

“I have a friend [say] ‘you’re not too old to start on your degree,’” said Knox JuAnita Durely Hill. “So, here I am today earning my BA in Early Education.”

Venicia Kane replied, “I went back to prove even ‘old mom’ – age 46 – could finish my first BA. I am now 52 and have my MBA.”

7) Because It’s Doable with Online Education

Busy working adults know there are only 24 hours in a day, which is why the convenience of online education is one of the main draws. Students can study from anywhere with Internet access – that means you might submit an assignment before you start your workday, study at home after your kid’s soccer game, or collaborate with classmates located across the country while you sign onto your computer at the local coffee shop.

Working professionals might question whether the education they receive online is of equal quality to the education they would receive if they went to a traditional brick-and-mortar institution. The answer is yes. According to the Babson Survey Research Group data, 74 percent of academic leaders rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those as in face-to-face instruction.

Today, there are many different types of online degrees in hundreds of different subject areas that working professionals can pursue. You’ll find there are few limits to what you can study fully online, and many times, because online learning lets you access schools that are beyond the confines of your city, you’ll actually have more educational options than if you limited yourself solely to in-class study options.

While many of the students gave similar reasons for returning to school, one overarching theme became apparent in the responses: the future. No one could predict how things were going to turn out with family or their career, but all of the students were confident they’d made the right decision to go back to school, no matter what may happen.

Written by University Staff

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