Going Back to School: A Guide to Finishing What You’ve Started

Almost 20 million students are attending a college or university today. Of these, almost 8 million students are over the age of 25. Going to college is possible for millions of adults, including you.

As an adult, going back to school can be intimidating. You have new priorities, such a full-time job, kids to care for, or projects at home. Combined with a global pandemic, all of these factors may be standing in your way from finishing a college degree. Fortunately, there are now more flexible, online learning options available than there were years ago. Getting a college education can be done virtually, at an accelerated pace, and even on a part-time schedule. Still, getting the process started can feel like a major leap. How can you go back to school and make it work at this point in your life?

In fact, there are only 8 key steps you need to take to go back to school. These include:

  1. Identify your goals for going back to school.
  2. Choose a program that aligns with your career goals.
  3. Decide on the class format you prefer.
  4. Determine when you’d like to start classes.
  5. Meet with a college admissions counselor.
  6. Request transcripts from your prior school.
  7. Make a plan to finance your education.
  8. Take advantage of this opportunity.

Are you ready to get started? Learn how to go back to school as an adult below.

Identify your goals for going back to school.

Before starting classes, it’s important to establish your goals. Why do you want to go back to school? What do you want to accomplish with a college education? You may understand the value of a college degree today, but it is important to understand the exact reasons why you’d like to take this next step.

For example, think about the career you would like to land after graduation. Are you looking to advance in your current company, or change fields completely? Are you looking to develop a certain skillset that qualify you for your dream job? Setting out with specific goals in mind will help you forge your way in school. It will also help you when deciding on the right college or university for your needs.

Choose a program that aligns with your career goals.

Choosing a school and, more specifically, a degree program will be an essential step in your back to school journey. This is where your career aspirations will come into play. It is important to choose a program that aligns with – and supports – your career goals. If you want to become a nurse, for example, you will need to find an accredited nursing program. If you want to become a marketing manager or healthcare administrator, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree to get hired. Alternatively, if you want to run your own business, you will want to choose a business program that can help you develop your entrepreneurial skillset.

As you can see, knowing where you want to go in your career (and further, understanding the requirements needed to get there) will play a key role in the decision-making process. The right program for you will help you meet all the qualifications needed to land a career, and also support you in the process of finding that dream role.

Decide on the class format you prefer.

More than likely, you have a lot on your plate – you may have a job, a family, a pet to take care of, bills to pay, groceries to be bought. You may be thinking; how can I ever balance all this with school? Rest assured there are flexible programs and course schedules out there, specifically for adults who are choosing to go back to school alongside their other obligations.

If there is one thing we learned during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that virtual learning is possible and now highly available. There are many online degree programs out there that offer a quality and comprehensive education, with accessible resources and networking opportunities. In fact, an online degree program has many benefits that an in-person degree might not offer. If you are worried about attending classes in-person, and balancing those classes with your job, an online degree may be the right path for you.

Some programs today are offered in a hybrid format, too, in which online and on-campus classes are combined to provide a balanced education. At Goodwin University, many of our programs are offered in a hybrid format – offering the flexibility of online learning, alongside the collaborative experience of in-person classes. We also offer part-time course options, for those who need to balance school with a full-time job. Here, courses are offered during the day, in the evening, and even on weekends. This means you do not have to put your life on hold to go back to school.

Determine when you’d like to start classes.

When thinking about your current priorities, you should also consider the level of time you can commit to going to school. Further, when can you realistically start your classes – based on current circumstances, and also financial state? Additionally, what is your ideal timeline for earning a degree? Every student will have different goals and needs when it comes to time commitment. The right program for you should be able to accommodate your schedule and demands.

For example, you may not be able to wait until the Fall to start classes. Perhaps you missed out on the second enrollment period, but are eager to get started now. Look for a school with multiple and flexible start dates. At Goodwin, for example, we offer six class starts per year.

Additionally, if you’d like to complete your degree on a certain timeline, or can only commit to a certain number of years or months in school, you may consider seeking an accelerated program or other flexible option that meets your scheduling needs.

Meet with a college admissions counselor.

Speaking with a professional at the college can help you to navigate your way through the admissions and application process. Starting this conversation will also start to build your support network at the college you choose. An admissions counselor or academic advisor can help you through any difficulties such as getting financial aid, re-enrollment and transferring credit, inflexible class scheduling, poor study skills. They can also counsel you in career direction and help you create an academic plan. This is a key step when starting the enrollment process and carving your path towards your degree.

Request your transcripts from your prior school.

Have you spent time in college in the past, but never completed your degree? Did you complete a postsecondary program, but are now going back to school for an advanced education? Or, did you finish high school but are now a first-time college student? Your prior education will come into play in the application process—and, if you completed prior college coursework, can even help speed up the process of your next degree.

By talking to an admissions counselor, you can determine which and how many college or high school credits are applicable to your new degree program. In order to get an understanding of this, your admissions specialist will require copies of your previous transcripts. It can help to request these transcripts in advance, so that you are prepared for the admissions process.

If you’re looking to transfer in credits to Goodwin University, it’s easy. Click here to learn more.

Make a plan to finance your education.

A college degree is a major investment. So, it is important to make a plan and ensure you’re ready to commit to the costs ahead. Tuition is not the only expense; college students should also prepare for costs associated with books and, if in-person, a commute. Fortunately, for those going back to school, there are many financial aid options available. When researching prospective schools, be sure to ask about the financial aid and services available to you. Most colleges offer grants, loans, scholarships, and work study opportunities for those students who need help paying for supplies and tuition.

At Goodwin University, for example, 94% of undergraduate students receive financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships. What’s more, Goodwin University also has one of the lowest tuition costs for private, nonprofit colleges in Connecticut.

Take advantage of this opportunity.

Right now, you may be apprehensive about going back to school. Maybe it’s been some time since you’ve last been in the classroom. Maybe you are afraid you won’t fit in with other peers. These are common worries to have when going back to school, but the fact that you are motivated enough to go back to school in the first place, should be seen as a clear advantage.

As an adult, you have more self-knowledge, more professional experience, and a better sense of your long-term goals than you did years ago. You have had time to think about where you want to go and what you want to do in life. Your personal and professional experience as an adult makes you a true asset to any college you attend. Additionally, your motivation can help you be more successful in the classroom, and give you the drive to accomplish those clear-cut goals you’ve established. Many students entering college directly after high school don’t have this same advantage, so it’s important to make the most of it.

Are You Ready to Go Back to School?

Finishing what you’ve started can really pay off.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who hold a bachelor’s degree earn 67% more than those with a high school diploma alone.

Want to learn more about Goodwin University in CT?  For those who want to finish their bachelor’s degree in 12 months full-time, consider our customizable Professional Studies program. For those looking to earn a career-focused education, and create a pathway that aligns with your needs, start exploring our various degree programs or get in touch with us online.