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Going Back to College? Overcoming the Roadblocks to Get Your Degree

February 09, 2009 By: Category: The Nontraditional Student

In today’s competitive job market, going back to school to get a degree is not only a good way to sit out the recession, but it will also make you more competitive when the recession finally comes to an end. Have you been thinking about going back to school? If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking about it, but something just keeps holding you back. There are a few roadblocks most students hit before going back to school, read this to find out how to overcome them.

photo by Richard

Money – College is affordable. Be aware of both the Hope and Lifetime Learning tax credits and that you can still file for the FAFSA. There are also several scholarships specifically for adult students, so check with individual colleges, community organizations, and online. Attending only part-time is another way to reduce the tuition load. Also, see if your employer has a tuition reimbursement plan or other incentives for furthering your education. Remember, your education is a marketable asset to their organization. Anne Strange, a non-traditional student in her junior year at Seattle University, recommends the simple concept of making sacrifices where you can. “Nobody can ever take your education away from you, and it’s worth living modestly, because that’s temporary.”

Time – Truly evaluate whether this is the right year for you to return to school, and factor in not only class time, but studying and group projects. How will the added stress of going back to school affect your other commitments to work and family? That said, there are still plenty of solutions. You can ease into it by starting off with a light schedule as a part-time student. If the night courses at your college of choice don’t mesh with your schedule, consider online classes. This post and this post also offer advice for those concerned about managing college with a family.

Social Anxiety – You are not alone. Many colleges and universities have several programs, student groups, and resources for non-traditional undergrads, including veterans. Glenn Schiro, Adult Student Services Coordinator at the University of New Orleans’ Metro College, says his job is to “lessen their fears or apprehension about coming back to school” through advising and by working with students to set up an action plan. University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire has an honors society and scholarships for non-trads, an Adult Student Peer Mentor Program, and other resources. You can also feel confident that other students have much to learn from you. Adult students add much-needed determination and diversity in perspective to the classroom that students and professors appreciate.

As Seattle University student, Anne Strange, says: “Don’t give up. There are going to be times when you have a ten-page paper and meetings, and your family is needing you, but if you have a good solid foundation and you know you can do this, everything else will fall into place. In the end, you will have greater self-esteem, greater pride, greater reward, and an education that far exceeds what you ever imagined.”


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