Are you ready for the challenge of going back to school?
The decision to go back to school as an adult can be a complex one. Prospective adult students face many complicating factors that “traditional” students usually don’t think about. With families, community obligations, jobs, and household duties, free-time is limited for adults interested in returning to college.

However, adult learners are the largest growing demographic in colleges today and this trend shows no sign of slowing. Additionally, with online programs, night and weekend classes, and tuition reimbursement programs through the workplace, going back to school has never been easier.
Over 50% of companies with more than 100 employees offer some type of tuition assistance.

Of course, higher education isn’t for everyone. Without specific goals and a preconceived plan, adult students may struggle. Let’s explore some of the common concerns that go along with returning to school as an adult learner.

Will a Degree Really Benefit Me?

It’s no secret that people with college degrees often earn more than people without. Although, this isn’t always the case, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income for employees holding a bachelor’s degree is $51,206, compared to $27,915 median income for those with only a high school diploma. Simply put: people with degrees make almost twice as much as people without.
Unemployment is also on the rise and has become an increasing worry to the United States economy. Putting unemployment in a college perspective: Individuals with no college degree are twice as likely to be unemployed as those who have one.

Not only do college degrees help you earn more, but they’ll help you keep steady work as well.

Will I Fit in with Younger Students?

The “traditional” student is often thought of as an 18 to 22-year-old who is attending a four-year college. A classroom full of students like this can be intimidating for adult learners. Adults sometimes think they won’t fit in, or can’t keep up with their younger counterparts.

But aside from the fact that adults are often more motivated to succeed than younger students, the traditional/non-traditional segregation simply isn’t as prevalent as it once was. Non-traditional students, like part-time and adult learners, are populating classrooms across the country—from elite four-year institutions to community colleges, and certificate programs.

Adult education has become so popular that “traditional” students are no longer the vast majority.

How Do I Get Started?

Before you begin researching schools and picking out classes, it’s important to understand the commitment that’s required to go back to school and to make a clear set of goals to accomplish. It may also help to turn to family members and friends for support, as returning to school can be a stressful transition. It’s always good to have a few people in your corner, supporting you.
The next step is to focus on ways to finance your education. Over 50% of companies with more than 100 employees offer some type of tuition assistance, which can greatly decrease the financial burden of going back to school.

Explore financial aid programs, fill out your FAFSA, and do a detailed search for scholarships for which you might be eligible. Then make a financial plan, and stick to it as you move towards your degree.

Whether it’s a continuing education that’s required by your current employer, or a full-degree program, it’s important to select a school that will help you achieve the goals you set in the beginning. Stick to these goals, and remember that the path to higher education will sometimes be challenging. But as with most challenges, overcoming them will be greatly rewarding.

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