Restarting your education might seem intimidating and stressful, but that should not stop you from finishing a degree and achieving one of your life-long goals. There are many advantages to earning your degree, such as furthering your career, keeping your skills current, adding to your professional network and personal development.
Many adults, years or decades into their working lives, are taking advantage of these benefits and deciding that it’s time to go back to school. Here are five tips if you’re thinking of taking the same step:
1. Check Credit Transferability
Save yourself time and money by taking an inventory of your previous educational coursework and earned credits. You could be only a few classes away from completing your degree and not realize it.
If you have a previous degree or were enrolled in some college-level courses, you may be able to transfer that educational experience. Start by reaching out to your former school and request your most up-to-date transcripts. An advisor at the school you’re applying to can help you determine what credits will transfer and how close you are to completing your degree.
For example, Herzing University offers many pathway programs which allow students to maximize previously earned college credit, training, work experience and/or military experience. With advisor support and guidance, transfer student programs will help give you a head start on your degree by outlining the credits you have and the credits you need. Take the time to figure this out before enrolling because the more transferable credits you have, the faster and cheaper your pursuit of a degree could be.
2. Go Back for the Right Reasons
Before you even begin looking at schools or programs, start by determining what your goals are for restarting your education. Don’t go back just because you are bored or think a new degree is a shortcut to your dream job. Instead, ask yourself: Am I looking to advance in my current career or looking to change career paths completely? Am I pursuing an education for career reasons or for personal fulfillment?
It is important to figure out how returning to school will positively influence your long-term plan or career pathway. For example, if you are a registered nurse with extensive experience and looking for more autonomy and greater responsibility, consider pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to become a nurse practitioner. Having a concrete idea of what you hope to get out of your education will not only help you find the right kind of program but will also keep you motivated throughout your education.
3. Get Organized
Adult life is busy enough with balancing family life and work. Adding school to that mix can become quite the challenge, even if you are well organized. So, set yourself up for success by taking the time to get all of your ducks in a row before returning to school.
One way to fit college studies into your schedule is to take online classes. You can take classes around your commitments and responsibilities. Herzing University has offered online learning options for 20 years, and its online programs are consistently ranked among the best in the nation.
For Herzing alumna Tracy Alsup, taking online courses was the right move because it allowed her to continue working full-time while earning her Bachelor of Science in Business Management.
“Online classes were a challenge at first, and I had to figure out a good balance,” Tracy said. “I learned the best way for me to manage my assignments was to work on them every weeknight. After getting home from work, I studied in my living or dining room for several hours so that I could take the weekends off. The flexibility that online studies gave me was key.”
4. Take it Seriously
Education is an investment and to get the ROI that you were hoping for, you need to put in the effort and take it seriously.
One way to get your head back in the “learning” game is by brushing up on the basics. Refresh yourself on your own unique learning style and productive study habits so you know how to start the year off strong. Another approach that you could take to make the most of your education is to be more strategic. For example, find a way to take better notes and get the most out of the time you have to study.
5. Stay Positive
Look on the bright side and remind yourself of your goals and the reason why you decided to return to school. Having a positive attitude will go a long way toward an outstanding educational experience. Always give yourself some credit for investing in YOU.
Also, build and rely on a support system. Going back to school can be stressful, but you don’t have to do it alone. Whether it’s your family member, close friend or professor, it is important to know that you can reach out to them for moments when you need a boost of encouragement.
Herzing graduate Shamika Nail valued the support she received from her instructors while completing Herzing’s online RN to BSN program.
“When they tell you they’re going to help you, they really mean it,” Shamika said. “When you’re struggling, they’ll proactively reach out and ask what’s going on. There were times when they would even do one-on-one video calls with me to go over an assignment or the material. They understood that most students were juggling work, family and other responsibilities. They were flexible with scheduling as long as you communicated with them.”
Education is a valuable, lifetime investment and earning a degree is a commendable and exciting achievement at any age. For adult learners, the decision to return to school could lead you one step closer to your dream job, or affirm your love for your current career. With research, planning and a positive attitude, you will be able to find a program that fits your needs, goals and even your budget!