As an adult who has already been in the workforce for many years, going back to college can be overwhelming. Traditionally, college students are recent high school graduates who are already accustomed to life in a classroom. For a non-traditional student, especially those who have full-time jobs or families to care for, furthering their education takes more effort and planning.
If you're enrolled in college courses now or planning to further your education, there are a few things you can do that will help minimize the transition and help you be more successful.
Have a time management plan in place. One of the most difficult parts of going back to school is finding the time to devote to your coursework. Before you begin, think about when and where you plan to work. It's important to know ahead of time how you are going to get things done. If you try to just fit your homework in around your other responsibilities, it will cause more stress and increase the likelihood of failing.
Look for schools you can afford. College is expensive. When considering your option, be sure to think about the price tag. There are many community colleges that can offer a lower-cost tuition on basic courses, and most of the time they have programs that will allow your credits to transfer to a larger institution for the last two years. These programs can make your degree much more affordable, which is important because even with student loans, you'll still be saddled with a lot of debt.
Consider online courses. These days, many colleges have online degree programs. Although there are many universities that are targeted toward non-traditional students, the tuition can be almost double what you would pay at a more affordable college. If furthering your education online works with your schedule, be sure to shop around.
Don't forget to fill out the Federal Financial Aid application. There are so many grants, scholarships and other financial assistance for students, not filling out the FAFSA is just silly. Even if you don't think you qualify for assistance, fill out the form anyway. You might be surprised by the amount of help available.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. Taking college courses isn't easy, so don't be afraid to ask for help. You're going to need support from your family and friends if you're going to be able make it. If you are struggling, don't wait until it's too late to ask for a hand. There is no shame in asking for the help you need.
Furthering your education is hard but it can open so many doors in your career. The key to success is planning each step. Have you considered going back to college? What advice do you have for non-traditional students? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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