Continuing your education is, perhaps, something that has had to wait due to other obligations, lack of money, or other circumstances. If you are finally in a place where going back to school is a viable option, I recommend weighing your choices carefully. There can be plenty of benefits from continuing your education, but it will also come with a price. As you contemplate your educational and career goals, consider these steps as you go through the process.
Do Your Research
There are so many programs and different courses available that it can be a little overwhelming when it comes to choosing what will bring the most benefit to your life and career. Think about your main goals and search for programs that provide a clear, strong foundation and specific information to support them. It could help to speak with former students to get a realistic view of a particular course or program.
Keep in mind, colleges and vocational schools are running a business. Their goal is to get people to enroll. Like any other business that needs customers to survive, they will use their best marketing strategies to convince a potential student to put their money on the table. Be conscientious of all the pros and cons as you research each school. Ask questions that reveal a balanced snapshot of the program and not just the shiny benefits.
Count the Financial Cost
Continuing your education will not be free in several areas, but, especially in your finances. Depending on the program and school, you could be set back tens of thousands of dollars before you finish. This is where you must decide whether going back to school is worth the investment that could put you in debt for years to come.
Checking your funds is crucial before you take another step. Consider what you have available in cash, credit, and potential loans. Also, do note that you may lose a part of your steady income if you can’t work as much due to time limitations. You could also have extra expenses like travel, books, computer equipment, software/programs, childcare, meals out, etc. Make sure you cover all the bases when totaling up your cost.
Choosing an Online or Offline Program
There are many courses available both online and offline, which are affordable and cater to working adults. Making this decision will primarily depend on several factors. What is your goal? What skills do you want to learn? What is your current life situation?
It’s obvious that some training can’t be done entirely online. Programs like phlebotomy training, nursing, construction, mechanics, and other hands-on jobs must be learned with live participation and instruction. However, some of the information and materials will likely be offered online.
On the other hand, programs like business, teaching, and journalism can be executed through online programs. You will have to consult with each school to determine the course format and expectations of your desired program.
If you’re someone who enjoys socialization and immersing yourself in a university lifestyle, offline courses could fulfill you more. Alternatively, if you’ve already had that experience and have a full-time job, children, and other obligations, you would more likely benefit from having online flexibility.
Prepare Yourself Mentally
Going back to school, whether it’s a full-time university program or a vocational course, is a major life change. Along with preparing financially and logistically, you need to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the challenges ahead.
Consider that you are not as young as you were the last time you were in class. Things like age, illness, trauma, and stress might make learning more difficult. It’s important to take things one day at a time and not be too hard on yourself as you acclimate to your new responsibility.
Be honest with yourself about whether now is a good time to start an educational program. I recently made the decision to take a year-long course in something I’ve been interested in for a long time. Even so, I toiled over the decision for days before I came to the conclusion that I wanted to go through with it. This was a process of preparing myself for the new challenge.
Give yourself time to make a quality and informed decision about your future. Trust your gut as well as the facts you gather. Do also talk to your family about your interest in continuing your education. They know you the best and can help you to make a decision that supports your dreams but keeps you grounded in your present responsibilities.