Adults are Going Back to School in Droves
Even before President Obama encouraged (ordered?) all adults to go back to college for more education, adults have been flocking to college campuses in droves. Up 30% to 40% just in the last few years, ‘untraditional’ nontraditional students are attending college courses for a variety of reasons. Some go to enhance current job skills or to gain skills needed for a promotion. Some go to get skills they need to keep or find new jobs when their jobs are changed or phased out. Some go in response to being laid off or fired. Still others go for personal enrichment. Whatever the reason, campuses across the United States are dealing with swelling numbers of students during a time of shrinking education dollars.
Is Going Back to School Worth It?
The answer to this question is, “It depends.” It might even be best answered by asking more questions.
Why are you going to college? To gain new skills or qualify for a promotion? If so, be very sure which course of study your employer will find acceptable. Studying botany won’t help much if you are a computer salesperson. If you are going to school because you have been laid off or fear being laid off, do you have a plan? How is what you are studying going to help? Are you interested in the field you think will get you a job?
How are you paying for college courses? Loans may be more difficult to get during tough economic times like these, but it is worth trying–if you can’t pay for your school any other way. Loans have to be paid back, and the only way to get loan forgiveness with federally insured loans is to be permanently physically incapacitated or to die–even bankruptcy can’t erase student loans. Be sure you don’t borrow more than you can realistically pay back. Federal grants are available to those who qualify. Unfortunately, qualifying isn’t as easy as it once was. FAFSA.gov is the place to go to learn the most current rules and regulations concerning federally insured loans and federal grants.
Do you know what you want to study, or why you want to study it, if you do? There is nothing to keep you from changing your mind once you get started. In fact, it is quite common that freshman change their minds after a few general education courses, but you should have some idea where you want to be once the studying and testing is done. It is important to determine why you want to study your chosen field. Is it because your mom or dad were doctors, lawyers, scientists, mathematicians, business managers, etc.? Often, students find they are not interested in subjects their family members studied. Some students have gone through four years of college, earned a degree, then hated the field in which they were qualified to work.
Do you have a plan for after college? What do you intend to do with your new credentials after graduation? Do you plan to start a business or work for a Fortune 500 company? Your ultimate goal should dovetail with your major. Earning a degree in English won’t help you much if you plan to be a research chemist. The most important thing to know is what you intend to do in the future. You can always change your mind. It is OK to reassess your life and take a new road, if you decide that is the best direction for you.
More Important Questions
Are you willing to commit to spending the major part of your time for the next four or more years to earn a degree? Students who attend full-time take a minimum of 12 hours, or four courses if you are on the semester system. Twelve hours a week (four courses with three hours of class time each week) will give you another twelve to sixteen hours of homework or study time each week–especially when you get into the science and math courses. Do you have time for 24 or more hours each week to take a full course load? Some college advisors recommend taking five classes each semester. That way, if you find a class you just can’t handle, or an instructor you just don’t get along with, you have the option to drop one class without affecting your full-time status or your financial aid.
The Most Important Question
Do you want it badly enough to go through weeks, months and years of study to get it? One of my relatives asked me if she should go back to school. One of her sisters and many of her cousins have attended college in their 30’s and 40’s–many of them earning multiple degrees. My answer was that she should consider her life, consider what she had to give up to go back to school, and consider not just the advantages, but also the disadvantages. She is in her 50’s and nearing her personal retirement goal. If she really wants to go, she should go for it. But, if her reason is because everyone else is doing it, she would not stay with it to finish. Then she would have bills she doesn’t currently have, and the opportunity to work for many more years before getting to retirement. It has to be her decision. Only she knows what she really wants, if she is happy with her life, and if she is committed enough to make a go of it. How about you? Are you that committed?