When you decide to go back to school after a few years away from a school enviroment, your mind may boggle at the number of alternatives that are available these days. Three of the mainstream alternatives for adult learners are:
Distance Education– learning in an online or mail order class enviroment where the student may be a distance from their classes. There are literally hundreds of online Colleges and Universities on the internet. When selecting a school or program it is extremely important to do your homework and ensure that the educational venue that you have selected is accredited to offer a legitimate degree upon the completion of your course of study. The easiest way to determine this is to ask the enrollment councelor if federal student grants and loans are offered by their financial aid department. If they do not then they are not accredited and the degree that you recieve upon completing the program may very well not be worth the paper that it is printed on. Many people refer to these un-accredated institutions as “diploma mills”. You will want to avoid these programs. These types of programs are ideal for self motivated individuals with an ambition to have their degree, which is essential for the student who is successful in self motivational skills and learns well outside of a lecture style format.
Traditional college-also called “brick and mortar” colleges in this article. Tthese colleges are the traditional college to which you go on a schedule of classes and class times while these are the “traditional choice” of students who have just completed their High School diploma programs they are not ideal for most people who have jobs and/or families and extremely busy schedules. There are a lot of advantages to be gained by enrolling in one of these schools. Normally they are accredited and fall into three basic categories; Community College, State Universities, and Privatly owned and operated Colleges or Universities. Financial Aid and Federally subsidized student loans are almost always offered to students who need help to pay for their classes. They feature a lecture style class format which is ordinarily more suited to those who are in need of motivational and educational skills.
Career and Technical colleges– these are colleges that also have a brick and mortar physical location. Normally this type of school will offer accelerated course schedules and options for working adults who cannot afford to quit their job while they are earning their credentials. Normally a Career or tech school will offer a limited selection of the most popular certificate and Associate Degree programs such as Career college; medical assistant, medical front or back office classes,massage therapy, and basic computer and office courses. The majority of these will be certificat programs with the option of completing an AA degree. Technical college; these schools normally offer certificate programs also as well as Associate Degree Programs and some may even offer Bachelor degree courses also for those people who are returning to school to gain additional credentials for career advancement.
First things to do:
What you will want to do first is to evaluate your needs to determine which educational strategy will best fit in with the rest of your life. Among the top reasons that older strudents tend to drop out of an educational program are time constraints (not being able to attend classes or to find study time within their schedule which is reflected in the grades and feedback that they recieve from their instructors), not “getting it” in regards to the course materials early on. They will often end up frustrated by the fact that they feel out of place, or disconnected from the younger students. Peer pressure is another important factor to consider for older learners.This can often be the most incidious and ruinous of the reasons that you may decide that going back to school is maybe “not for you” It can be a death blow to your efforts because when you quit school often times that is the end of your dream to earn a collegiate degree. Some of the students friends don’t want the person to enroll in classes to better their future not because they shouldn’t do it, but because that will give them less time to “hang out”. Also many people will subconciously undermine your aspiration because they feel that once you earn that degree and move on to better employment and more money that you will change and in so doing that you will shed them as a part of your old life that no longer fits. Also they may fear that they will end up resenting you and not liking to hang out with you because you are a “college grad” and thus not the person they are used to, and that this would have to change the entire friendship.
What are your educational goals or needs?
You must determine what needs you have to fulfill(ie responsibilities, commitments, work schedules, or the schedules of children who are enrolled in primary and secondary schools who may depend upon you for transportation.) Also what are your goals and timeline? This is a simple step, you evaluate your life, your schedule, your obligations to others in your life (children, spouse, work, commitments etc.), and the “free time” that you have in beyond the required time spent on the first two things. If you work days, as most people do, you will want to look at either evening classes at your local university or job training programs in your area. Another great alternative that is quite viable is, online distance education. Going to school online in an asyncronous classroom enviroment has proved to be the ideal way for many adults who cannot afford to quit their jobs while they go to school.
Then evaluate what you will need, not books and pens, the bigger things like tuition costs. Where is that money going to come from? Transportation will have to be considered and factored into your plans if you choose to go to a brick and mortar college. Financial aid is also important because lets face it folks most adult learners that did not go to college immediately following high school did not pick the cherry jobs as a consequence of that decision and thus your budget is probably already tight without adding the major expenditure of school! This is often the motivating factor that causes you to finally decide that you need to earn a degree in order to earn more cash! Will you be eligible for grants? What about applying for federally subsidized Student Loans? How much are you comfortable with borrowing? What about scholarships or grants from private sources?
Are you aware that you are still eligible for federal grants and loans if you go to and accredited school online? There are also the privately funded scholarship programs out there, even for online college students. These scholarships are often small amounts which will not give you nearly enough money to pay for your education, by themselves anyway. They usually are easily applied for and a savvy student can certainly see the potential of putting these awards together into a more realistic sum. Also many of these scholarships are often paid out to the student as opposed to being paid to the school so the money can be spent on whatever your unmet needs may be at that time, with no requirement to account for every dollar of “school related” expenses that larger scholarships awards will often require you to provide. Also the scholarships that award $5000 or more will more often than not pay that money out directly to the college or University in which you are enrolled, so though it does help you by your not having to borrow as much money, or come up with it out of pocket for tuition and enrollment fees.
Although the prospect of returning to school can often be daunting, there are ways that it can be done without putting you in the poor house or piling up $10,000 or evern $20,000 in debt that will need to be paid back after you complete your degree and find your dream job. You may be paying toward that large a debt for years before you actually get to enjoy your newfound earning potential. Be creative, be tenacious and willing to do whatever it takes to make your dream of a better, more secure life and a better job a reality. Resources are available to those who take the time to seek them out and if you are persistent and creative in your approach you will find the funding, the time, and the support both emotinal and financial to aide you in your bid to improve your prospects.
So that’s it! Ready? Get Set. Go get that degree!