If you never finished (or started!) college, then you might have given some thought to going back to school at some point. As the years pass, however, it can seem like it’s too late to pursue your dream of earning a degree. The idea of going back to school can be intimidating!
While it’s true that getting your degree when you’ve been out of school for a long time can be a challenge, it also has many incredible rewards. As an older, wiser adult, you’ll have some advantages over the teens and young adults in your classes and you’ll gain new skills that will serve you well in your life and career.
Think it’s too late to go back? Think again. Here’s what you need to know about going back to school later in life, whether you’re 35 or 60!
The Benefits for Going Back To College
These days, a college degree is necessary for many jobs. In some fields, a degree is required to ensure public health and safety. In others, there are so many qualified candidates with degrees applying that it’s hard for someone who doesn’t have one to stand out.
If you don’t have a degree, then you’ve probably realized that your job prospects and earning potential are somewhat limited. A college education is almost mandatory for professional advancement these days and a degree can be your ticket to a better life. There are so many benefits to going back to school, including new skills, better earning potential, and even enhanced confidence.
What You Need to Know About Going Back to College
Feeling like it’s too late to go back to school is very common. Until recently, just about all the college advice out there was aimed at teenagers or young adults going straight into the world of higher education. This advice, while somewhat useful for older learners, doesn’t take into account challenges like long education gaps or trying to fit into the youth culture of college.
The good news is that more and more people are deciding to go back to school after a long break. There now are lots of great resources out there for choosing the right degree, applying any old credits you might have, and juggling school and work.
Dr. Leilani Carver-Madalon is an assistant professor in the Master’s in Strategic Communication and Leadership Online Program at Maryville University.
“The number one thing people going back to college should know is that strategic risk-taking is absolutely critical to success. It is never too late to dream and become your best self. Strategic risk-taking is the foundation that allows for achieving your bucket list items and becoming the person you have always wanted to be. Without risk, I find there is little reward and there is evidence that supports this as well. Kay and Shipman (2014) in their book ‘The Confidence Code’, found in their studies that confidence is actually built through risk taking.”
You will have your own unique challenges when going back to school. Maybe you have kids at home or you work odd hours. Perhaps you’re worried about having time to study or working among students who might be decades younger.
It’s important to acknowledge these challenges and to choose a structure that works for your life. Online programs have become very popular among adults going back to school because they offer flexibility for people with busy schedules.
How to Pick The Right School
Once you’ve decided that it’s finally time to go back to school, you need to choose the right program for you and your needs. There are certain schools that tend to be friendlier to older students, which might make you feel more comfortable about giving higher education another try.
You should also choose a school that supports your interests. Different schools are known for different programs, and it’s important to choose a school that emphasizes your preferred degree. Going back to school is a huge commitment, and you should try to make sure that you’re getting the best education possible.
Remember, it’s important to follow your interests, but you should also be realistic. Choose your degree carefully and think about which careers might give you the most options or opportunities. You’ll probably be investing a decent amount of money in your education and it’s important to think about the eventual return on that investment.
College Financial Planning Tips
Going back to school can be expensive, especially if you don’t qualify for any grants or scholarships. It’s never too late to go back to school, but you need to make sure that you’re making a smart financial move and plan carefully for your financial future.
You might need to take out loans to finance your education. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you need to understand what you’re getting into and how you plan to pay the money back. Think about the financial implications when choosing your school and program. Will you go part-time or full-time? Will you work while you go back to school? These are all questions you need to consider.
“Many people may settle for work that does not bring meaning and joy. It takes strategic, ridiculously heart-pounding, sleep-stealing risks and always hard work to build a life that you love. I should know as I am a quintessential late bloomer. I never thought I would become a professor and it took every ounce of courage I had as a single person (without a financial net) at 29 years old to quit my secure, great paying job and leap into the great unknown and begin a Ph.D” adds Dr. Carver-Madalon.
“I was not sure that I could do it. I was afraid of failure and yet I did it anyway. I had never worked harder and never risked more. Ten years later, I love my dream job and cannot imagine doing anything else. The key to going back to school is knowing that you have to take strategic risks and that you have to be brave. Let’s be brave together”
It can be scary to go back to school. But remember, college is an investment in your future. By finishing your degree, you’ll be setting yourself up for a happier, more secure life!
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.