That dreaded decision. Deciding whether to start (or go back) to college can be rough. Add in children, a job, your significant other, (and many, many more of your current responsibilities) and the decision becomes almost impossible. But, you my friend, are in the right place. We are going to work through this together, here and now.
Do you have time for college?
College can take up a significant portion of your life. The first step is to evaluate your life, and ask yourself, “Do I have time?” This is a hard question to answer.
This answer is going to majorly depend on your current responsibilities, your goals, and what you are willing to sacrifice to meet those goals.
Tips for Success:
- Pros/Cons list
List all of the pros for starting/continuing school. Think about the ways in which this will positively affect your life. Consider ways both during school and after graduation. It’s good to focus on the end goal, but you also have to stay sane while in school.
Once you have exhausted your list of pros, turn to the negative. Why would it be hard to go to school? Think about this decision from different perspectives: Financially, Time, Sleep, Stress, etc. How will this impact your finances? How does this impact time with your kids, friends, and family? Will you get enough sleep? Are you already stressed?
Next, write out a schedule of your average week. Include your work schedule, exercise, your children’s schedule (ie. any activities you have to attend), time with family, church or religious activities, etc. Write down anything you typically do within an average week.
After finishing the schedule, review it. Do you have time for school? This would include class time, if applicable, and study/homework (writing all those papers and studying for tests) time. If you are going to school full-time, give yourself at least 8 to 10 hours a week for school. Can you fit it in?
How can you make time for college?
If you wrote out your schedule and you are just not finding a lot of time left over, ask yourself what can you cut out to make time? Can you cut down on the number of hours you work (probably not – I know)? Can you cut out going to your children’s activities? Working overtime? Family get-togethers? Can you sleep, exercise less?
I know none of this sounds appealing, or even doable. However, if you want to return to school and be successful, it is imperative that you have enough time.
The truth is, you have to figure out if school is a priority. If other things are more important in your life, there is nothing wrong with that. However, maybe right now isn’t the best time to start school.
Reality check here. College is expensive. You have to pay for tuition, parking, books, lab fees, student fees, supplies, etc. How are you going to pay for this?
The easiest answer for most people is financial aid. This is aid obtained through filling out the FASFA. You can check this out at http://fasfa.ed.gov or by googling it.
Little background in case you are unfamiliar:
This application is submitted to the Federal Government to determine your eligibility for financial aid. The form will ask for your personal information, determine if you are independent or a dependent student, and ask for financial information. This form will be sent to the school(s) of your choice, where it will be processed and they will send you a financial aid award letter. This letter will tell you how much the school is willing to give you for grants and loans to attend school. There are limits of how much they are allowed to offer for each type, depending on your grade level (junior, senior, etc).
I suggest applying to the schools you are interested in, and filling out the FASFA as soon as possible. This will allow you to make a decision based on money, which of course is important.
Where and What?
You also need to consider, first, where are you going to go to school? Are you going online? On campus? Explore your options around your city. There are also a ton of options for going to school online. Don’t let location deter you from going to a certain school. Most colleges now offer most if not all classes online. Explore their websites, and ask questions if you need to. You are paying for this experience, so get the most out of it.
Next, you need to consider your major. If I wanted to go to school for dental hygiene, not all schools will offer that. Obviously, I need to find a school that will offer that. Therefore, this should be considered in your decision as well.
There are tons of ways to explore career options. You can first start out by taking a test to figure out your interests (just google career aptitude test). Write down any that sound interesting. Research these careers and consider: 1) Salary 2) Job Outlook (are people hiring) 3) Tuition Cost 4) Location of Schools 5) What type of education you need for that career 6) Career Advancement (if you are interested) 7) Working Conditions (Don’t look at becoming an accountant if you don’t like office jobs).
Weigh your options and ultimately, you have to make the right decision for you and your situation.
Best of luck, ya’ll.