Whether you want to expand your options or change fields entirely, going back to school is a great way to do it. However, returning to college as an adult is far different from starting off as a freshman. You may have earned your bachelor’s five or more years ago; you might be 20 years post-grad and worrying whether you have what it takes to keep up with the younger students today. First, do not allow anxiety or self-doubt to stop you from pursuing your goals. Even with some understandable hesitancy, earning a second degree can open many new doors for professional growth and personal fulfillment. Before you decide to start applying, ask yourself the following questions.
Do I Have Enough Time to Go to School?
The good news is that today, you don’t have to quit your job and sit on campus to get a degree. Online is the way of the game for even traditional universities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. But there are also many online colleges that have entire programs designed for adult learners. Online degrees are flexible, and while they do have deadlines, you aren’t required to show up to a lecture. You set your hours, study when you want and receive an education while working, raising a family and living your life.
Even with that flexibility, however, you will still need time to dedicate to your studies. If you’ve been out of the classroom for a while, you might be surprised at how time-consuming college work actually is. While you likely won’t be given homework each night like a high school student, you’ll need to set aside at least 20 to 25 hours a week to study, research and work on projects. Make sure that you are both capable of and willing to make the commitment before you enroll and get charged tuition.
Can I Afford It?
College costs vary greatly among institutions and degree programs. If you’re returning to school, you may even be able to transfer credits from your last degree and spend less time and money earning another. However, you will still need to consider the long-term cost of college. If you’re already paying off student loans, are you willing to add thousands of more dollars to your debt? Will you earn enough to be able to afford your loan payments after graduation? Make sure that you discuss your financing options with your school’s financial department. Talks about scholarships, personal vs. federal student loans and existing debt should all occur prior to enrollment. You could refinance your student loans prior to or after graduation to save money, and accommodate the added cost of a second degree.
Am I Passionate About What I Want to Major In?
Many people return to college for a second degree after their first one turns out less profitable than they expected. While earning a second bachelor’s or masters can help you change career paths, you can’t dedicate two to four years of your life to something you hate. Try to strike a happy middle-ground; you need a degree that will lead you to a lucrative career while still bringing you a sense of pride and enjoyment. Personal fulfillment comes through interest, so don’t try and earn a degree in business if you hate math and management, for example. Consider your current skills, passions and desires. What can you study that will allow you to enhance your existing skill set and apply your experience in new, more valuable ways?