Maybe you didn’t have the chance to go to college when you were younger, or that one gap year turned into five somehow. Now you’re realizing all the opportunities you’re missing on from not having those higher credentials. In some cases, people decide to go back much later in life either because they didn’t have the time to finish their studies or they have free time to dedicate to them now. Either way, going back to college after a long break will present some challenges, and you have to be prepared for them if you want a chance at succeeding. Let’s take a look at some tips you should follow.
Know the Costs
College is expensive and you have to make sure that you sit down with a financial advisor before you start, as you may have to restructure your finances. This is especially true if you can’t work full time or at all during this period.
You might also have to make some sacrifices from now on. You may have to cut down on eating out and start learning how to prepare meals for yourself. If you have never made a budget in your life, you will have to now. If you have a partner, then you may want to ask them if they’re ready to carry some of the load for you and maybe earn some additional income. Do everything you can to keep around the same standard of living while cutting expenses. You also want to make sure that you have a sizable nest egg to fall back on if things get rough.
We also suggest that you take advantage of financial aid. There are plenty of grants and other options that may be available to you. Some of them are specifically for people going back to school. Don’t leave money on the table, and see if there’s one you could qualify for.
Know the Mental and Emotional Toll
You also need to know that the cost is much more than monetary. You will have to make some difficult lifestyle choices when switching from a professional life to an academic one. You may not have as much time to spend with friends and family on the weekend. This might be tough for you. You will also need to prepare for the stress of exams and the uncertainty that comes with them. But you must always remember why you’re doing it, and that’s to eventually improve your life conditions, so never keep your eyes off the prize.
Look into Online Programs
Another thing that we would suggest is that you look at online classes. These are more popular and sophisticated than ever and replicate the live teaching experience very well. They have many benefits for people going back to school. For one, they allow you to get your credentials while still keeping your job. You can either decide to take part-time classes or cut down your work schedule so you can work full time. Some may even decide to do both and take classes during the evenings and the weekend.
This is also a good option for many people who are getting back to school for advancement or those wanting to pivot into a different field. For instance, if you are interested in a field like nursing, Baylor University’s accredited online accelerated BSN programs for non nurses are a perfect way to get your qualifications fast.
These are just as respected as any other programs, as long as they have the right accreditation. You also have to make sure that the school and their program are respected. This is what will eventually dictate how your degree will be viewed in the marketplace.
Another benefit of online classes for people going back to school is that there’s less social pressure. A 40-year-old might not feel comfortable in a class with students in their late teens or early 20s. So, this could be a great way to go back without having to deal with all the extra stuff.
That doesn’t mean that you’ll be completely disconnected, however. Online classes do a great job at allowing students to communicate with the teaching staff. It’s often easier for teachers to process questions through a chat than in a class setting, so don’t expect to get less access.
It’s important to make sure that you have the discipline to follow through on your assignments and stay motivated. Some people may want or need the direct college experience, but this is up to you. We only suggest that you consider the option and see if online classes could work for you.
Have Clear Goals
You will also need to start setting goals. You don’t want to lose focus. You need to know what your true career aspirations are. Speak with as many students around you as you can and try to get in touch with alumni. Ask them what their experience is in the field you’re studying. They may tell you about things you haven’t considered, or speak about some of the hidden perks of the job.
Make sure that you set goals in other areas of your life as well. Set professional, social, family, and personal goals, and learn how to balance them. When you have a fulfilled life, it’s easier to stay focused on your studies.
Learn How to Manage Time
You will also need to become a master at managing time if you aren’t already. This is especially important for those who are thinking of working during their studies or have a family to feed. One of the best things you can do is take the time to formulate a game plan every morning when you wake up. Learn how to use time management tools. Plan every detail of the day, even conversations that usually wouldn’t be on a calendar. Planning is what will allow you to stay ahead of tasks, but also save some time for yourself.
Going back to college after you’ve been off for a long while can be a challenge. It could also be the best decision you’ve ever made, as long as you execute it properly.