Now that the kids are out of the house, you have a little more time to assess your career and really think about what you want from your profession. You have your eye on a great promotion or even a whole new field, but you need a degree to get it.
So, you’re thinking of going back to college as an adult. The idea of finally getting that degree you’ve wanted is really exciting, but there’s a lot that seems intimidating. Will everyone in your class be 20? Will you have to be on campus all day, every day? Can you afford it? How on earth are you supposed to do homework again!?
There are a lot of myths and expectations around returning to college and it can be a lot to overcome before you even sign up for your first class. The first and most important thing to understand is that you are not alone. In 2014, over 8.2 million college students were over the age of 25. Seventeen percent of all college students that year were over 35. Like you, these students worked, served in the military, raised kids, or did any number of other things between graduating and returning to school.
IF SO MANY ADULTS ARE GOING BACK TO SCHOOL, WHERE ARE THEY?
When you’re researching schools, consider programs that offer classes in the evenings, on weekends, or even online. Look for schools that offer classes all year long – even in the summer – so it doesn’t take forever to finish your degree. These programs offer more flexible hours precisely because adult students often face more responsibilities while attending school. Because of this, you’ll find more adult students in these programs.
Going to college as an adult doesn’t mean you have to go to college like a kid. You may still be working full-time or have family members or children to care for. You may go to work during the day and head to class after dinner. While younger students hang out in the dorms or in the student center, you and your adult classmates can have a study session at your local coffee shop. You just have to do what works for you.
HOW CAN I AFFORD IT?
Just like going to college in your teens, financial aid is available for adult students, too! You’ll need to fill out a FAFSA form, and then you’ll learn about your eligibility for Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and other kinds of financial aid. Your school may offer scholarships, financial aid, and payment plans of their own. And if you happen to have a kid or two in college, you can see some pretty nice tax breaks as well. It’s also important to remember the benefits when you’ve finished your degree. With your advanced education, you may be well on your way to a higher paying career that can make those years of paying for college more tolerable.
BUT SERIOUSLY, WHAT ABOUT HOMEWORK?
Think about who you were at 18. Are you anything like that person today? One of the best things about going back to college now is that you get to bring with you everything you’ve learned since you were a teenager. You already know about responsibility, focus, and keeping track of what’s important, so adjusting to the hustle and bustle of student life shouldn’t be an issue.
As an adult, you make the decision to pursue a degree because it is important to you. No one else is expecting you to go to college or study a certain subject. This time around it’s for you. And most adult students come to find that when you’re working hard to gain knowledge you really want, studying and homework don’t feel like a punishment. It will feel like the hard work you’re putting towards your own goals.