4 tips for working adults going back to school

(BPT) – Do the back-to-school signs in the store have you itching to get back in a classroom? Back-to-school season traditionally falls around August or September for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, but a working adult can enroll in a new or advanced degree program at any time of the year, including the fall months.

If you’re considering enrolling in a new or advanced degree program as a working adult, here are some factors to consider as you make this big decision:

1. Schedules

Balancing school, work and families might take a bit of planning and organizational skills. “According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 39 percent of the estimated 21 million students heading back to school this fall will be over the age of 25,” says Tracy Lorenz, president of Western International University (West). “These are individuals with families, jobs, household duties and community obligations, which can often mean that making time to return to school is a challenge.”

Thanks to online delivery and flexibility in scheduling, students can start a class at West at the beginning of any month. So once the back-to-school chaos has settled at home and the fall workload has smoothed out, students are able to sign up for that class they’ve been thinking of taking. Students should keep in mind the time they need for each class, not just for catching up on course materials and projects, but also for homework and online discussions with classmates.

2. Affordability

Financial planning is just as important when starting out on a new degree program as it is when managing one’s household budget. Before starting a program, students should create a list of the expenses they’ll face for tuition and supplies, as well as financial aid opportunities and the potential for reimbursement from an employer. Doing so will help students understand their net investment and how it can be aligned with their other financial responsibilities. Ultimately this exercise allows students to select both the right degree program as well as the one that best fit their budget.

3. Support

Working adults need support in their college endeavors as much as students continuing directly from high school. Students should let their employer know about their schooling plans, as well as friends and family who can help encourage them through each step of the process. Many colleges also offer support for adult students. For example, West provides complimentary services that range from career coaching and financial resources to tutoring services and assistance in creating a balance between work, life and school.

4. Emergency planning

A kid catches the flu or the office schedules a business trip that conflicts with the course schedule. Having a backup plan can help students stick with their education plans and graduate on time. Taking classes online is a big help as it makes education fully accessible at home or even while traveling by finding a Wi-Fi hotspot to catch up on classwork over breakfast at a coffee shop or hotel.

Students that make sure they have the time to complete course work, select a degree program they can afford, develop a support system of family and friends, and make sure they can continue their studies when life’s other challenges arise can help make their back-to-school experience a successful one, any time of the year. 

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