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Returning to College to Obtain Your Master's Degree

Updated on August 17, 2011

Make Your Plan

Yes, it's really true! You can go back to school after having children, working for years in the workplace, and generally being part of the rat race. If your desire and motivation is strong enough, you can succeed. Having recently experienced this myself, I will let you have a few tips on how it could have gone SO much better:

  1. Make a really good plan! Think it through thoroughly and decide what semester you want to start and how you will pay for tuition and books. If you will be planning on financial aid and loans to help pay for college, get started as early as possible. Go ahead and do it now because you can always update any information on the forms. My experience: I didn't think it through as thoroughly as I should have. I checked into the college I wanted to go to, and found that although I had finished my financial aid information, I had missed an important deadline. But I had already given my notice at my job and it was too late to take back that letter of resignation. So I had to find several smaller part time jobs to equal that income. It was a very disappointing and discouraging event. It ended up taking me almost a year to get back to the point where I could enroll and complete the application process. My advice: write everything out as you would like it to happen chronologically. Sleep on it, continue to think about it and work out the details so that everything will fall into place the way you want it to. I also like to have a backup plan! You never know when you'll need it!
  2. Check your paperwork to make sure everything is in order. No one from the college financial aid department, or the business office, or administration will call you to remind you that you missed a form, or didn't complete the application process. You will have to check everything yourself. And you will have to ask more than once in many cases. In the case of graduate school, the school I applied to has a 2-step process. Step one is to apply to the college--this college charges $20 to apply. If you are not accepted, it is non-refundable. The second step is to apply to the graduate school itself. There was no fee to do this, but the paperwork is intensive. This is where the college reference letters are required, as well as a lengthy question and answer form about your career goals. There was also a research paper required that addresses your career choice. The university also wants to know that you have thought this through and you are not applying on a whim.


Back on Campus

At some point, you will need to actually be on campus to complete your financial aid process, get your books, talk to your advisor and other minutiae (see? I'm already sounding scholarly and it's still early in the semester!). Always ask: what else do I need to do? Is there anything else I need to do? Because there seems to be an unwritten rule that says under pain of death and dismemberment you must absolutely under no circumstances volunteer information to a person who looks lost on campus. This rule has a corollary that says the only time you may volunteer information is when someone has actually spoken in the form of a question, and then just give the bare minimum information to get to the next question.

Looking Forward

It is finally sinking in. I am actually back at university! Although the majority of students here are much younger than me (there go some more teeny boppers looking for a computer in this library), the students in my grad classes are pretty much the same age as I am, so I don't feel so much like a fish out of water, but the first couple of days have been a little surreal. My chosen career path is school counseling. And because my advisor gave me permission, I didn't actually have to have my teacher's certification or take the GRE. But here's the catch: I have to not only carry this full load of classes, but sometime this semester, I have to take the GRE, which is not administered on this campus. The nearest testing location is 50 miles in the other direction. And during the next semester I MUST take the OSAT and the OGET to obtain my teacher's certification.That's okay--I'll get it done! And I'll keep you posted!


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