If you take a walk around just about any college campus in America these days, you’ll likely see some signs of age on more than a few in the sea of students around you. But while it’s no secret the number of students returning to college after age 25 is on the rise, how do you know if it’s the right decision for you? Here are a few things to consider before continuing your education by going to college for the first time or by getting another degree.
Do Your Homework
Let’s assume whatever profession you are considering pursuing will gain you a higher income than you are bringing home in your current job. You need to weigh the factors, such as the cost of gaining this education, the difference between your annual salary now and the projected salary of your new position, how many years you think you will be working in your new position and the number of years you would remain in your current position at your current salary.
There may be other issues that could also influence your decision, such as whether or not you still have children at home to care for, or a spouse and how it will affect him or her. If it helps, jot your thoughts on a notepad for closer deliberation.
What Field Will You Pursue?
Going back to school as a nontraditional student may have become the “cool” thing to do after the age of 25, however, it is not the end all and be all of the professional world. Before you decide to go back to school or continue your education, really think about what field you will pursue. As mentioned, some degrees will really pay off in terms of higher earnings, but some degrees in some fields may not.
Do You Need to go Back to School?
Having a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s or even a Doctorate may not be necessary to accomplish your goals. Depending on your chosen profession, it is possible an Associate Degree would do just as well. If you have a professional mentor, ask them if they feel it is necessary to go back to school or get a further degree in order to achieve your goal. The last thing you want to do is to continue your education if it only results in racking up debt with nothing to show for it.
What College or University Will You Attend?
You can certainly sign up for and attend courses at a nearby college campus to save money on your college education, but if you do some checking, you may find the courses you need are offered online. Completing your coursework from home when it is convenient for you would be an advantage if you are trying to juggle work, college and a family or other commitments.
Do You Have the Time?
Going back to school or pursuing a higher degree, like a masters or doctorate, can be stressful on you and your family. Finding time for family, work and school can be a real challenge. Don’t forget about how much work you’ll have to put in outside of the classroom on homework, papers, projects and studying for tests. Be realistic and think it over carefully before taking the plunge. You may have time if you give up some time sucking activities like watching TV.
Can You Get Financial Aid?
If you are a returning student, you might think there are no scholarships or grants available. Wrong. If you are planning to go into a field related to what you currently do, check to see if your current employer offers any scholarships or if they are willing to reimburse you for taking some classes. You can also look around online. You might be surprised to find scholarships and grants available for nontraditional students and those pursuing higher degrees after obtaining a Bachelor’s.
Alternatives to Formal Education
These days there are also a lot of alternatives to formal education at colleges and universities. Not only can you take many degree programs online, but you can also choose to self-educate without the aid of a college or university at all. There are plenty of courses available online from professionals in many work fields, and you may even be able to self-educate for free with the help of resources in your community, like the public library.
As you can clearly see, the decision of whether or not to further your education is not to be taken lightly, and there are many things to consider. Take a little time to think about it, and if you still feel it’s the right thing to do, go for it!
Have you ever thought about pursuing more education? Was there anything else you considered before making your decision?
Photo courtesy of: AlexanderStein