If you have been out of high school for a while, but never earned your college degree, you may wonder if the time and money it would take are worthwhile. There are many benefits to earning your degree, and if it is something that you are considering, there is no time like the present.
The idea of applying to school, arranging your finances, and even walking back into the classroom can feel overwhelming, but if you take everything one step at a time, you may be surprised at how stress-free and rewarding it can be.
Understand the Finances
The first obstacle most people face when they consider returning to school is wondering how they will manage their finances. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways you can pay for school. Understanding that there is money available, and flexibility on how you handle payments can help ease your stress.
Each school you apply to will provide a financial aid package. You can get a good idea of the amount of financial aid you can expect to receive by using an online calculator. The difference between the aid provided and the actual school costs can be covered by private student loans. If you are concerned about taking on debt to pay for school, consider the outcomes of earning your degree.
Individuals with college degrees are generally more employable and earn more over their lifetime than those without a degree. With that in mind, you can see how it makes sense to make this investment in yourself.
Decide How You Want to Learn
The decision about returning to an actual classroom versus online classes is personal. In the past, online learning was often more expensive and less well-regarded than traditional classes. Today, most colleges and universities offer a range of online options, and the odds are that you will be able to earn a degree in many careers entirely virtually if that is what you want.
Online classes are beneficial in several ways. Because most courses allow you to do the work on your time frame, as long as you meet deadlines, you can continue to work while attending school. Online learning may be more comfortable for older non-traditional students who may feel intimidated by returning to the classroom surrounded by students young enough to be their children.
Of course, traditional classes have benefits as well. Many people find in-person teaching more beneficial and easier to understand. It is easier to ask questions and understand explanations in an in-person atmosphere. Also, having other classmates alongside to participate in discussions can be one of the most enjoyable and educational experiences of higher education. In the end, no one answer is right for everyone. You may be limited to one choice or another.
For example, if you are settled in a particular area, and no nearby college offers the program you are interested in, online school will be the best option. If you plan to work in the medical field or another area that requires hands-on work or research, a traditional school may be your only choice. Otherwise, you should weigh the pros and cons for your particular situation.
Have Confidence in Yourself
Once you know where and how you plan to attend school and arrange the finances, you may start to question your decision. This is normal and doesn’t mean that you should regret your choice. These nerves mean that earning your degree is something you care about and are a signal that you are making the right choice.
If you have been away from school for a while, you may worry that you will not be able to keep up with the coursework. These fears are generally unfounded. While you may not have spent the last years studying, you have spent your time away from school developing other skills.
You have a better grasp of time management than you did straight out of college. You know the dangers of procrastination. You have been in the real world without a degree and realized the importance of returning to school to earn one. Your motivation and dedication will outpace any weaknesses from spending time out of the classroom setting.
Stay on top of your coursework, and don’t be afraid to approach your professor early if you have concerns about your academic progress. Colleges have many educational resources that will be at your disposal, from tutoring to study groups, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to use them.