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Going Back to School after your 20's
Should I Go Back to School?
The good news for everyone is that you are never "too old" to go back to school. In fact, in the 2012-2013 school year, 40.5% of enrolled students were 25 to 39 years old compared to the 46% in the 18-to-24 age group. To go further, 12% of students were over 40. You are not too old to go back, but you should consider a few things before you start your application.
College is a major decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. It can affect your life in more than one way. For example, do you have children? Have made a career change? Gotten married? Divorced? School is hard work. Among the challenges of everyday life, you have to work around them and still save time for your education.
This post will help you answer the daunting question: Should I go back to school?
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis
Handling a Reduced Income
You need to make a a plan, not only for the amount of time you are willing to invest in school, but for how much time you are going to give up at work or at home. If you have to cut a few hours from your 9-5, think about the pay cut that may come with it. Not only will you be incurring expenses due to tuition, fees, and books, but you may be doing this on a reduced income. Start saving early and plan to use what you have saved to help you through the times when you can't work as much.
How do you make time for school?
Work, children, activities, a spouse....all of these require a time commitment from you. School requires you to cut down some of those hours to make room for studying, reading, taking notes, tests, assignments, and projects. Time management is very important. If you are already working, you may have to cut back on some hours or shift your schedule. If you have a family life, this is something you should talk about with your family (spouse, children, caregivers, etc) to make sure that there is a plan that works for everyone.
Paying for Tuition
Paying for college is a challenge, but in your 30's it can be harder because we all have other major financial responsibilities. A house payment, a car payment, children, childcare, insurance...these all have to be paid. The good news is that the Pell Grant, which is a government grant based on need, can help fund a portion of the cost. Employers also have tuition reimbursement programs that may help cover some of the cost as well.
The Pell Grant:
- A federal grant that does not have to be paid. It is NOT a loan. Federal Pell Grants are awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's or a professional degree.
- The award amount can vary yearly. The maximum grant amount for the 2013-14 award year was $5,645. The amount you get depends on:
- Your financial need
- Your cost of attendance
- Your status as a full-time or part-time student
- Attending for a full academic year
Make sure to check deadlines and apply for your grant/loans before the deadlines.
For more information about the Pell Grant and other funding options, visit: https://fafsa.ed.gov/
Making Major Choices
One advantage to being older before you go to school (or return) is that you have been around the block at least once. You know what interests you, you have a job that you want to advance in, or you know what you dislike most. For students entering college right out of high school, the choice may be easy, but they may find that they have chosen a major that they really hate.
Know your endgame:
If college is something you need to do for a pay raise, maybe you should consider finding a certification program to suit your needs. Is college tuition really an expense you want to pick up for a $2 raise? If you want to change careers or you know you need a degree to move up, college may be the right choice for you. Make sure you pick a major that aligns with your career. Don't study art history if you need a degree in business to move up. Make sure you choose something that will help you advance in your current career or move you into an equal (or better) position in another career field or with another company.
Know what you have time for:
Do you want a two-year degree? Do you need a four-year degree? You have to know what you need in order to pick a program that suits you. If you need a bachelors degree, this means you need four years to complete a program.
Traditional or Online:
Many schools offer education online. This means that you don't need a paper and pencil to take notes anymore (unless you want to). Do you have the computer proficiency to take online classes? Can you bear to sit in front of a computer and read for hours on end with little (or no) instructor lectures? Maybe you need to be in a traditional classroom. People learn differently. Know how you learn and know what you are good at. This will help you pick between taking online classes or attending classes in a classroom.
Are you considering attending school in the near future?
Let's see how well you were paying attention!
- What should you consider when thinking about going back to school?
- Going back to school means I may have a reduced income. True or False?
- I can attend school online and continue working. True or False?
- Is college tuition an expense you want to worry about in order to get a $2 at your current job?
- Can you get help paying for school?
If you got two or more wrong answers, read the hub again! This is a major decision that requires educating yourself before choosing an education that costs you money.
If you got all the answers correct, great job! But keep researching your options and things such as cost before making your decision.
No matter what you decide, remember that you are never too old to go back to school and make a change. Consider your options and make your decisions wisely, but dare to dream big. Good luck!