Experiencing further education is not something limited to those just leaving high school. As an adult, returning to school can be a valuable and exciting experience. It’s a chance to follow learning paths you may not previously have had the time, resources, or motivation to access. It may be the case that your career priorities have changed and you are keen to gain the qualifications to help you reach your goals.
But it’s not always as clear-cut as simply deciding to go to university. While it’s not quite a case of weighing up the pros and cons, there are some key areas of consideration to explore. As with everything else in your adult life, navigating the idea of returning to education has to take into account various competing elements, each with its own nuances and solutions.
We’re going to take a look at some areas to bear in mind that can impact your choice to engage with further education as an adult.
Review the Benefits
When you have a firm grasp of the benefits a return to school can offer, you can then take a positive approach to understand how you might address the challenges. Perhaps the most tangible element you need to examine is whether a qualification will make a difference to your professional life. Sometimes this might be obvious; there may need to be specific qualifications that are a requirement for engaging with a specific industry career path.
However, you should also consider whether taking a course can make you an attractive candidate for advancement in your current or future employment regardless of industry. Taking a master’s degree in management information systems can give you valuable insights into leading technological projects and practically integrating digital tools into a company’s operations. Alongside developing your skill set in understanding the big picture imperatives of business, you‘ll also cultivate a working understanding of cybersecurity protocols and team leadership. Take time to consider how this type of course can give you the range of abilities that can result in progression to management and executive levels wherever you choose to work.
Don’t just stick to the professional benefits of going back to school, either. Look at how it is likely to impact your personal life and your well-being. Returning to education can introduce you to other learners who share similar interests and goals; you get to forge new connections and friendships with a diverse range of people. The sense of achievement you gain from not just graduating but learning a new skill can be a boost to your sense of self-esteem. When you’re reviewing benefits, do a deep dive into what aspects of your life it can have a lasting effect on.
Consider the Practicality
Once you’ve established whether the benefits will have a positive influence on your life, it’s important to establish practicality. Often, the element that holds people back from adult education is they can’t quite get their heads around the logistics of doing so. After all, you may well have various responsibilities that need to be taken into account.
Some elements to look at include:
Study sessions are no longer limited to the confines of a university. It is increasingly common to take some of your classes and projects remotely, and you need to establish whether it is practical for you to have a quiet and clear space to interact on video calls. This isn’t usually insurmountable, as you can arrange almost any area of your home to have a professional background that is suitable for classes and meetings. With some focus on clear lighting choices, removing any distracting clutter behind your seating area, and perhaps some neutral decorative elements, you can produce an environment conducive to positive remote interactions.
One particularly sticky area in terms of practicality tends to be the need to keep working. After all, the mortgage or rent payments, utilities, and family food costs don’t go away just because you’ve chosen to go back to school. As such, you should explore whether there are solutions available to you. Are you able to attend part-time at work to also take your classes? Can the lectures of your course be attended in the evenings or viewed online later? It can take some wrangling, but if you can establish whether working your studies around your employment is feasible, you can make more informed decisions about whether it’s practical to return.
Prepare for the Challenge
When you’re considering returning to school as an adult, it’s worth bearing in mind that various challenges will await you. You need to look at what these are and whether you can prepare accordingly.
A key challenge you’re likely to face is finding the balance between family, work, and your studies. A good form of preparation here is starting open and positive communication protocols as soon as possible. Making efforts to talk to your family — perhaps when you need them to help make the dinner occasionally or give you some space to study — can be a vital tool in reducing stress and feeling supported. Beginning conversations with your work supervisors about your efforts toward professional improvement can make them more open to agreeing to time off or switching shifts when you need them.
However, one of the most difficult challenges is a financial one. Returning to school is expensive — the average tuition cost of a 4-year program ranges between $13,900 and $23,800, depending on whether you attend a public or private institution. Your preparation here may have to revolve around working on your credit rating to establish if you can qualify for a student loan and perhaps working out a budget to ensure you can meet the day-to-day costs of living alongside tuition fees.
Should you go back to school as an adult? Well, there are some compelling benefits, including potential for professional advancement. That said, it’s important to consider how practical it is for your current circumstances and what challenges you may have to prepare for. The challenges shouldn’t necessarily put you off, but they can help to direct your decision-making in a more informed fashion.
Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.