Think­ing ahead

Want to go back to school? Here’s how you get started.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - MARKETPLACE -

Grad­u­a­tion sea­son is in full swing, with proud fam­i­lies and friends look­ing on as this year’s grads re­ceive their col­lege de­grees.

Be­neath th­ese grad­u­ates’ seem­ingly iden­ti­cal caps and gowns are in­di­vid­u­als with in­cred­i­bly dif­fer­ent sto­ries, strug­gles and ac­com­plish­ments. Many of them don’t fit the “tra­di­tional” mold of a col­lege grad­u­ate. For ex­am­ple, some stu­dents have full­time jobs or fam­i­lies to care for, and some al­ready have decades of work ex­pe­ri­ence un­der their belts.

Adult learn­ers ac­count for a sub­stan­tial por­tion of stu­dents in higher ed­u­ca­tion. The U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion found that in 2016, stu­dents over the age of 24 ac­counted for nearly two-fifths of post­sec­ondary en­roll­ment.

“I’ve seen first­hand the drive of work­ing adults to re­turn to col­lege and the chal­lenges they face jug­gling their lives and their ed­u­ca­tion,” said Ti­mothy P. Slot­tow, pres­i­dent of the Univer­sity of Phoenix. “The unique needs of th­ese stu­dents mat­ter. As a par­ent or full-time em­ployee, you re­quire flex­i­bil­ity and struc­ture. As a pro­fes­sional, you re­quire a ca­reer-rel­e­vant pro­gram, aligned to skills and com­pe­ten­cies in your field. As an am­bi­tious in­di­vid­ual, you de­serve com­mit­ted fac­ulty mem­bers with ex­pe­ri­ence in their fields.”

There are a few sim­ple steps that work­ing adults con­sid­er­ing a re­turn to school can take to get the most out of the ex­pe­ri­ence. Slot­tow of­fers the fol­low­ing ad­vice:

Put your sup­port sys­tem in place.

As a work­ing adult re­turn­ing to school, re­mem­ber that you are not alone. Think about the peo­ple you lean on for sup­port — sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers, chil­dren, em­ploy­ers, etc. Make sure your sup­port sys­tem knows your goals and that they are com­mit­ted to en­cour­ag­ing you along the way.

Do your home­work be­fore you start school.

Visit with aca­demic coun­selors to de­ter­mine which pro­grams best fit your goals. Also, talk with a fi­nan­cial ad­viser to plan for the costs of your ed­u­ca­tion. You may find it eas­ier to at­tend schools that of­fer ac­cess to coun­selors who can keep you mo­ti­vated and on track. Look for an in­sti­tu­tion that has re­sources and net­works that align with your goals.

Lever­age per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. Ev­ery col­lege and univer­sity will view your work and ed­u­ca­tional his­to­ries dif­fer­ently. Con­sider schools that of­fer credit for prior learn­ing and work ex­pe­ri­ence. If you have a mil­i­tary back­ground, ask about credit for your mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence.

For­mu­late a plan.

It is pos­si­ble to work full time and be a full-time stu­dent: Schools that have flex­i­ble but struc­tured sched­ul­ing can al­low you to at­tend school full time while man­ag­ing other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Some pro­grams may of­fer classes en­tirely on­line, while some will ex­pect you to be at a cam­pus one or more times a week. Be­fore you en­roll, know what you are com­mit­ting to. Uti­lize the flex­i­bil­ity of pro­grams such as on­line or night classes to en­sure that your life out­side school also re­mains a pri­or­ity.

“Choos­ing to be­gin or com­plete your higher-ed­u­ca­tion jour­ney as a work­ing adult is a com­pli­cated de­ci­sion,” Slot­tow said. “The im­por­tance of pro­vid­ing ac­cess and op­por­tu­nity to work­ing adults who as­pire to con­tinue their ed­u­ca­tion can­not be over­stated. That is why stu­dents must learn what op­tions ex­ist, and in­sti­tu­tions must pro­vide the flex­i­bil­ity, struc­ture and ca­reer-rel­e­vant pro­grams that work­ing adult stu­dents need to succeed.”

Just as nu­mer­ous stu­dents are tak­ing the fi­nal step in ac­com­plish­ing their goal of grad­u­at­ing from col­lege this spring, many more will make the first step in pur­su­ing that goal by en­rolling in col­lege pro­grams.

Photo by iStock

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.