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Should You Go Back to College?

Are you an older student planning to go back to college? If so, you aren’t alone. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that more than three million students over the age of thirty-five currently attend college. Higher education represents a substantial investment, especially if you have children and a spouse. Returning to school may require time spent away from your family and could compel you to cut back on work hours or make other financial sacrifices.

Examine your motivation and resources before enrolling in college. Whether your educational goal involves an undergraduate degree, graduate degree, or vocational training, you will be more likely to succeed if first you consider the impact of returning to school. These tips can help you plan for the extra load and work higher education into an adult life.

Do You Have Time?
Even with kids and a job it’s possible to carve out time for homework and classroom sessions. It may take some serious discipline, however. Prepare by purchasing tabbed notebooks, a calendar, and a day planner. Take careful notes during class, organize classroom handouts, and secure a seat where you can clearly hear the instructor. You might even use a tape recorder to capture lectures for future reference. By staying well-organized and making the most of your class periods you can streamline your study time outside of class.

If you still don’t have enough free minutes to honor your job and family commitments, consider taking night classes or attending school part-time. While part-time school may take longer than full-time school, it can allow you more hours with loved ones and extra time to study and relax.

Do You Have Enough Money?
If you are concerned about the cost of college, don’t despair. Find financial support for your studies by:

Try not to let any initial fiscal setbacks trip you up. If you are attending school to obtain a larger skill set or to find a higher-paying job, your college education could ultimately prove to be a lucrative investment in your financial future. In fact, many studies indicate that higher levels of education usually lead to higher salaries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for example, reports that people with master’s degrees average more than twice the yearly salary of people who only have high-school diplomas.

Are Your Goals Clearly Defined?
It is vital to know exactly what you’d like to gain from your college education. If you can’t garner a managerial role without a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA), or if you need a bachelor’s degree to switch careers, then a full-length college program could be a wise investment. If still unclear about the requirements for your desired career, you can:

If you only want to gain a minor technical skill, like applying a new computer program or learning conversational Spanish, you may not need to earn a degree. In this case, a community college class might be cheaper and less time-consuming. Having clearly defined goals is important for financial reasons and can help you stay fully motivated through your entire college experience.

Is an Online Degree a Better Option?
Online education can give working professionals distinct advantages over their traditionally-educated counterparts, including:

Will Your Family Support You?

In addition to tapping your family’s emotional support, consider joining an adult student support group in your community or online. A gathering of like-minded students can provide valuable encouragement as you strive toward achieving your degree.

Publish date: June 19, 2008