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The concept of “going back to school” is something we associate with kids at the end of their summer breaks. However, the phrase increasingly applies to adults as well. In fact, roughly 35% of college students in 2020 were 25 years old or older. Furthermore, given the growing number of options available thanks to online learning and digital tools, more parents are deciding now’s the time to finally earn that degree.
However, whether earning your undergraduate degree, pursuing a Master’s, or setting your sights even higher, times have changed since your last stint in school. If it’s been over a decade, there are several things you should know before getting started.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at what parents should know before deciding to go back to school:
The first step is getting yourself reacquainted with the application process. While grades, test scores, and extracurriculars still matter, they don’t matter as much as before. Many universities are willing to accept applicants with less-than-stellar academic records so long as they can showcase their skills in other ways. For instance, New School in San Diego lets applicants submit a graphic design portfolio to supplement their less-than-stellar academic performance. With this in mind, review the application processes from several competing universities to see which one is right for your situation.
Many of us were taught in school to stay away from the internet when studying and doing research. The reason was one that remains to this day; you can’t trust everything you read online. However, it’s safe to say the internet has come a long way in the last 20 years. Sure, digital misinformation is still rampant, but there are reliable sources of accurate information. Those going to school can count on the internet to be their friend, so long as they know how to use critical thinking skills when conducting research.
Depending on where you work, going back to school might be cheaper than you think. That’s because many companies choose to reimburse employees for tuition costs. They include it in their benefits package. The only catch is the degree program must be one they consider relevant to their industry. In other words, an international bank may help pay for you to go back to school for finance, but not if you go back for literature. With this in mind, check to see if your employer offers such options. Knocking a few grand off your tuition is too good to pass up, so don’t skip this step!
There’s no reason to make college harder than it has to be. If you feel like your math, reading, or writing skills could use some practice, consider taking one or two refresher courses before going forward with your higher education aspirations. Doing so will make it easier to step back into school after a decade or longer hiatus.
On the other hand, there’s no reason to spend time and money on coursework you’re already familiar with and don’t need to learn. Aspiring adult learners can see if they qualify for advanced placement. It means skipping over classes you’d otherwise have to take to earn your degree. Not only will you save money, skipping a class or two means getting to graduate faster.
No matter how much you plan and prepare, going back to school is sure to test your patience, discipline, and determination. Remind yourself that learning is a lifelong process. We’re never too old to learn something new. Furthermore, struggling to learn new material as a 30-something doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes. Once you appreciate the fact that everyone is a student for life, going back to school as an adult will seem far less intimidating.
While kids dread “going back to school,” many grownups choose to do so voluntarily. Thanks to the development of sophisticated online programs and improved technology, it’s never been easier to make your higher education dreams come true. Just make sure to know what you’re getting into before diving headfirst.